Krish O'Mara Vignarajah

Krishanti O'Mara Vignarajah (born 1979) is a Marshall Scholar[1] and an immigration advocate serving as President and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.[2][3][4][5][6] Previously, Vignarajah served as Policy Director to former First Lady Michelle Obama.[7][8][9][10]

Krish O'Mara Vignarajah
Born (1979-09-16) September 16, 1979 (age 42)
Sri Lanka
EducationYale College, University of Oxford, Yale Law School
RelativesThiru Vignarajah (Brother)

Education and biographyEdit

The second child of Elyathamby and Sothy Vignarajah,[11] Krishanti Vignarajah has been called a prominent Maryland resident,[12] and one of Maryland's "Top 100 Women" and "Top 50 Influential Marylanders" by The Daily Record.[13][14] She and her brother Thiru Vignarajah arrived in the United States as young children when their parents fled civil war in Sri Lanka.[9] At Yale College she earned a B.S. in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, graduating magna cum laude and with Phi Beta Kappa honors; she also earned a Master's degree there in Political Science.[15] She was a 2002 Marshall Scholar at the University of Oxford,[1] where she received an M.Phil. in International Relations. She returned to Yale Law School, where she served on the Yale Law Journal.[15]

Vignarajah is married to Collin O'Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. Their wedding was officiated by Senator Chris Coons of Delaware.[16]

In June 2020, Vignarajah went public with her breast cancer diagnosis.[17] In an interview with The Baltimore Sun, she said, "My hope is to do my part to lift some of the stigma and anxiety that sits around breast cancer."[18]


Back from college for a summer, Vignarajah worked for Senator Paul Sarbanes.[15] She has practiced law at Jenner & Block in Washington, DC; she has clerked for Chief Judge Michael Boudin on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and has taught at Georgetown University as an adjunct.[15]

She was a Senior Advisor at the U. S. Department of State under Secretary Kerry and Secretary Clinton.[15]

Working in Michelle Obama's office, Vignarajah focussed on issues "related to entrepreneurship, private sector investment, infrastructure, women's issues, engagement with youth and religious communities, climate change, and budget development and execution".[19]

Vignarajah ran for governor of Maryland in the 2018 primary election, finishing fourth.[2] She gained "some national attention" because had she won, "she would have been the first woman, immigrant or person of color to be elected governor in the state".[2]

In 2019, she became president and CEO of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.[2] During her tenure there, the refugee resettlement agency filed litigation against the Trump administration, challenging the legality of Executive Order 13888, which seeks to give state and local officials the authority to opt out of refugee resettlement in their jurisdictions.[20][21][22] In an interview with NPR, Vignarajah described the policy as "cruel and shortsighted," and noted that "refugees that have been waiting to be reunited with their families for years may be forced to settle hundreds of miles away."[23] Vignarajah also spoke out against the Executive Order in a Baltimore Sun OpEd entitled, "The courts should declare Trump's refugee order unconstitutional."[24] The lawsuit has thus far resulted in a preliminary injunction against the policy, barring its implementation temporarily.[25][26] In response, Vignarajah told NBC News, "This injunction provides critical relief. Those who have been waiting for years to reunite with their families and friends will no longer have to choose between their loved ones and the resettlement services that are so critical in their first months as new Americans."[27]

Selected publicationsEdit


  1. ^ a b "Alumni - Marshall Scholarships". Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  2. ^ a b c d Chason, Rachel. "Krishanti Vignarajah, former gubernatorial candidate, to head Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  3. ^ Broadwater, Luke. "Krish Vignarajah named CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service". Retrieved 2021-03-01.
  4. ^ "Krish O'Mara Vignarajah, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service : I95 Business". Retrieved 2021-03-01.
  5. ^ "Rebuilding refugee resettlement to make it better than it was under Trump—or Obama". The Christian Century. Retrieved 2021-03-01.
  6. ^ Joseph Cirincione, Zack Brown (2020-04-27). "How Blocking Immigration Hurts U.S. National Security". The National Interest. Retrieved 2021-03-01.
  7. ^ Wiggins, Ovetta (Aug 9, 2017). "Michelle Obama's former policy director enters race for Maryland governor". Washington Post.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. ^ "Girls Can Do – Krishanti Vignarajah". Retrieved 2021-03-01.
  9. ^ a b Cutter, Kimberly (2018-04-17). "Krishanti Vignarajah Wants to Be the First Female Governor of Maryland". Marie Claire. Retrieved 2021-03-01.
  10. ^ Kelly, Hillary. "This Obama White House Alum Wants to Be the First Female Governor of Maryland". Glamour. Retrieved 2021-03-01.
  11. ^ "Elyathamby Vignarajah". Honored. Retrieved 2021-03-22.
  12. ^ Leonard, Ben. "By mail? In-person? Here's how seven prominent Marylanders chose to vote". Retrieved 2021-03-01.
  13. ^ Staff, Daily Record (2015-02-23). "Winners". Maryland Daily Record. Retrieved 2021-04-26.
  14. ^ Staff (2021-06-11). "Congratulations 2021 Influential Marylanders!". Maryland Daily Record. Retrieved 2021-07-16.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. ^ a b c d e "Biography: Krish O'Mara Vignarajah". Retrieved 2021-03-22.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  16. ^ Price, Betsy. "He got down on one knee and proposed. So did she". The News Journal. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  17. ^ "Former Gubernatorial Candidate Krish Vignarajah Battling Breast Cancer". WJZ-TV (CBS). 2020-06-02. Retrieved 2020-12-30.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. ^ Barker, Jeff. "Krish Vignarajah goes public about her breast cancer, hoping to ease 'stigma and anxiety' about the disease". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2020-12-30.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  19. ^ "Krishanti Vignarajah drops lawsuit to affirm eligibility to run for governor | News India Times". Retrieved 2021-03-22.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  20. ^ Hackman, Brent Kendall and Michelle (2020-01-08). "Federal Judge Questions Trump Order on Refugees". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  21. ^ Sachetti, Maria (Jan 8, 2020). "North Dakota county accepted refugees, but the debate is far from over". Washington Post.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  22. ^ "Judge weighs bid to stop Trump's refugee resettlement limit". AP NEWS. 2020-01-08. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  23. ^ Rose, Joel (Nov 21, 2019). "Advocates Challenge Trump Administration Plan To Let States And Towns Block Refugees". NPR. Retrieved 2020-12-30.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  24. ^ Vignarajah, Krish O'Mara. "The courts should declare Trump's refugee order unconstitutional". Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  25. ^ "Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Trump's Refugee Order". NPR. Retrieved 2020-12-30.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  26. ^ Montoya-Galvez, Camilo (Jan 15, 2020). "Court blocks Trump's plan to let states, local governments reject refugees". CBS News. Retrieved 2020-12-30.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  27. ^ Strickler, Laura (Jan 15, 2020). "Judge blocks Trump order allowing local governments to refuse refugees". NBC News. Retrieved 2020-12-30.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)