More Indian-American names in crucial positions of incoming Biden-Harris administration


Vanita Gupta could make history by serving as the third highest-ranking position at the Department of Justice

Our Bureau
Washington, DC 

US President-elect Joe Biden nominated Vanita Gupta, a respected civil rights lawyers in America, as his associate Attorney General and called her a “proud daughter of immigrants from India who has fought for greater equity.” If confirmed by the Senate, the 46-year-old would be the first woman if Indian descent to serve in this role. 

During the Obama-Biden administration, Gupta was put in charge of investigating the abuse of power in police departments in Ferguson, Missouri and other communities torn apart by acts of violence and racial injustice. Gupta helped institute common sense police reforms to build greater equity, safety, and trust. She was commended for her work by both law enforcement and those advocating for changes in the criminal justice system, Biden said.

“That’s a rare achievement and it speaks volumes about her capacity to unite people in common purpose, which is what this is all about. Uniting the American people. Born in Philadelphia, a proud daughter of immigrants from India, does that sound familiar?” Biden said while looking at Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

“If confirmed, Vanita will be the first woman of color to serve as associate attorney general. And I’m grateful. I’m grateful that Vanita is leaving her current job, leading one of the premier civil rights organizations in the world as she answers the call to serve once again to ensure that our justice system is even more fair and more equitable,” he said.

Vanita Gupta is a prominent civil rights attorney, who previously served as an acting assistant attorney general and head of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice. Currently the president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights civil rights coalition, Gupta was nominated by President-elect Joe Biden for the position of Associate Attorney General on January 7, 2021.

If confirmed by the Senate, Gupta — who was described by Biden as “one of the most respected civil rights lawyers in America” — would make history, becoming the first person of color to serve as the Associate Attorney General, the third highest-ranking position at the Department of Justice.

The attorney’s history of trailblazing dates back further as she became the first woman confirmed as assistant attorney general for national security during the Obama administration.

Gupta, daughter of Raj Gupta, the former Chairman and CEO of the chemical giant Rohm and Haas, and his wife, Kamla Gupta, was born in Philadelphia in 1974. She did part of her schooling in France and England during her childhood while Raj Gupta served as a senior executive for Rohm and Haas in Europe for more than a decade.

After earning her BA and graduating magna cum laude from Yale University, Vanita Gupta earned her JD from the New York University (NYU) School of Law in 2001.

She started her career as an attorney at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense & Educational Fund, where she successfully led the effort to overturn the wrongful drug convictions of 38 individuals in Tulia, Texas, who were ultimately pardoned by then-Gov. Rick Perry.

National Security Council appointments 

Biden and Harris have also named three more Indian Americans as members of the White House National Security Council (NSC) and another on Harris’ press team. Tarun Chhabra would serve as Senior Director for Technology and National Security, Sumona Guha as Senior Director for South Asia, and Shanthi Kalathil as Coordinator for Democracy and Human Rights on the NSC team.

The new NSC members will, under the direction of National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, help Biden and Harris “keep our nation safe and secure,” the transition team announced on Friday. “These crisis-tested, deeply experienced public servants will work tirelessly to protect the American people and restore America’s leadership in the world,” said Biden. “They will ensure that the needs of working Americans are front and center in our national security policymaking, and our country will be better for it,” he added.

“This outstanding team of dedicated public servants will be ready to hit the ground running on day one to address the transnational challenges facing the American people — from climate to cyber,” said Harris. “They reflect the very best of our nation and they have the knowledge and experience to help build our nation back better for all Americans.

Chhabra is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Security and Emerging Technology at Georgetown University. He was previously a Fellow with the Project on International Order and Strategy at the Brookings Institution and a Visiting Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perry World House.

During the Obama-Biden Administration, Chhabra served on the National Security Council staff as Director for Strategic Planning and Director for Human Rights and National Security Issues, and at the Pentagon as a speechwriter to the Secretary of Defense. Born in Tennessee and raised in Louisiana, Chhabra is a first-generation American and a graduate of Stanford University, Oxford University, and Harvard Law School.

Guha was co-chair of the South Asia foreign policy working group on the Biden-Harris campaign, and serves on the transition’s State Department Agency Review Team. Guha is Senior Vice President at Albright Stonebridge Group. Previously, she served in the State Department as a Foreign Service Officer and later, on the Secretary of State’s policy planning staff where she focused on South Asia.

During the Obama-Biden Administration, she was Special Advisor for national security affairs to Vice President Biden. Guha is a graduate of Johns Hopkins and Georgetown University. She lives in Bethesda, Maryland with her husband and three children.

Kalathil is currently senior director of the International Forum for Democratic Studies at the National Endowment for Democracy, where her work focuses on emerging challenges to democracy. Previously in her career, she served as a senior democracy fellow at the US Agency for International Development, an associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Hong Kong-based reporter for the Asian Wall Street Journal, and an advisor to international affairs organizations.

Kalathil is the co-author of Open Networks, Closed Regimes: The Impact of the Internet on Authoritarian Rule (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2003).

Originally from California, Kalathil is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and the London School of Economics and Political Science. Prior to her role on the Biden-Harris campaign, Sabrina Singh served as Senior Spokesperson for Mike Bloomberg’s presidential campaign and National Press Secretary for Cory Booker’s presidential campaign.

She previously served as Deputy Communications Director for the Democratic National Committee, Spokesperson for American Bridge’s Trump War Room and Regional Communications Director on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

“These deeply experienced public servants reflect the very best of our nation, and they will be ready to get to work building a country that lifts up all Americans,” said Harris about new members of her office.

Dy press secretary appointment 

In another important appointment, Sabrina Singh has been named as the White House Deputy Press Secretary in the upcoming Joe Biden administration, according to an announcement made by the Biden-Harris Transition. Taking to Twitter, Biden-Harris Presidential Transition wrote, “The Office of the Vice President will consist of experienced individuals who represent the very best of our country, and who are ready to meet the challenges we’re facing and deliver results for the American people on day one.”

Sabrina Singh retweeted it saying: “I’m so grateful and incredibly humbled to join this team. It’s been an honor to work for @KamalaHarris and I’m excited to continue the work and deliver results for the American people.”

Singh was Press Secretary to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on the Biden-Harris campaign. Biden and Harris announced additional members of the White House staff on Friday.

Prior to her role on the campaign, Singh served as a senior spokesperson for Mike Bloomberg’s presidential campaign and National Press Secretary for Cory Booker’s presidential campaign.

She previously served as deputy communications director for the Democratic National Committee, spokesperson for American Bridge’s Trump War Room and Regional Communications Director on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

She has also worked at SKDKnickerbocker, served as Communications Director for Rep. Jan Schakowsky and worked at various Democratic committees, said the Biden-Harris Transition as it announced additional members of the Vice President’s Office at the White House.

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