New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Feb. 6 appointed Indian American human rights attorney Jenifer Rajkumar as the director of immigration affairs and special counsel for the New York Department of State.
A Department of State spokeswoman told India-West in a phone conversation that Rajkumar had all the qualifications to be hired to the new post.
“She’s a wonderful addition to the department,” the spokeswoman said. “She’s going to be a huge help to the immigrant community in New York State.”
The Department of State is the agency in charge of immigration in the state and Rajkumar, who unsuccessfully ran for a spot in the state’s 65th Assembly District last fall, is going to be on top of all the immigrant issues. Rajkumar’s focus includes implementing the governor's immigration initiatives.
“I’m very proud to be here because I believe (Gov. Cuomo is) the biggest change agent in the nation right now,” Rajkumar, who also ran for New York City Council in 2013 but fell short, told India-West, adding the governor has focused on paid family leave and marriage equality, among other hot-button issues in his time leading the state.
“I will be a driving force to implement the governor's initiatives including drawing upon top legal talent across New York State to make sure immigrants are protected,” she said.
Additionally, Rajkumar said she will work with the Office of New Americans to help immigrants coming into the country for the first time in New York.
She also said she is “driving forward (Cuomo-announced program) Naturalized New York,” which is a program that works with New York-based immigrants.
Rajkumar also praised the governor for his stance against hate crimes.
“As an Indian American, I’m proud the governor has taken a strong stance against hate crime,” she told India-West. “He has directed agencies to protect immigrants and announced a hotline to help immigrants who have been threatened with a hate crime.”
A graduate of Stanford University Law School and the University of Pennsylvania, Rajkumar has been a staple in the community for several years.
Among her roles are an eight-year stint at Sanford Heisler LLP law firm, where she litigated on gender discrimination, tenants’ rights and whistleblower cases from 2009 until taking the new post last month.
She was part of the legal team on the largest gender discrimination case ever to go to trial which was named by the U.N. as one of the top 10 cases in the world advancing women's rights, the Department of State said in a news release.
She has also been an advisory board member at WIN NYC, a district leader of the New York Democratic Party, a panelist on the PBS show “To the Contrary,” and an adjunct assistant professor at the City University of New York, among others.
“Gov. Cuomo has a strong stance of protecting immigrants in New York State,” the department spokeswoman added. “Jenifer is the right person to move his initiatives forward.”
In 2015 and 2016, Rajkumar was named to the NY-Metro Super Lawyers Rising Stars List. In 2011, she became the first South Asian American elected District Leader in Manhattan, winning with 70 percent of the vote.
Additionally, she was named a 40 Under 40 Rising Star by City & State, a 2017 Queens Rising Star by the Star Network, and received a Young Women of Achievement Award from WIN.