- Charanya Krishnaswami, senior counselor to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, previously worked as advocacy director at Amnesty International USA.
The Biden administration has waived ethics rules to allow a top Department of Homeland Security official to make policy in areas on which she lobbied in the former job. A memo released by the White House Office of Management and Budget, dated Feb. 9 and released publicly on April 2, gave the reasons for waiving the rules for Charanya Krishnaswami, the senior counselor to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Krishnaswami was previously the Advocacy Director for the Americas at Amnesty International USA.
The moves come after President Biden signed an executive order in January, placing restrictions on all former registered lobbyists working in the administration. At the time, Biden received “praise from advocacy groups like the Revolving Door Project and Progressive Change Campaign Committee,” The Hill reported.
In her role at the DHS, Krishnaswami is expected to advise and counsel the secretary on immigration matters of national and international importance. However, without the waiver, she “would be restricted for two years following her appointment from participating in any particular matter on which she lobbied for her former employer, Amnesty International, in the two years before her appointment, or from participating in the specific issue area in which that particular matter falls,” said the memo, written by Robert Fairweather, Acting Director, Office of Management and Budget.
“Simply put, this waiver is supported by the government’s critical need, Ms. Krishnaswami’s specialized experience, the deleterious impact of other limitations, and the fact that Ms. Krishnaswami only conducted limited lobbying activity for a non-profit organization,” Fairweather wrote. She will still be barred from participating in matters that could financially impact Amnesty itself.
As advocacy director at Amnesty, Krishnaswami directed Amnesty International’s U.S.-based advocacy on human rights in the Americas, with a focus on U.S. asylum and migration policy and human rights in technology. In this capacity, she conducted policy research, analysis, and development, as well as aspects of advocacy and public outreach.
Prior to joining Amnesty, Krishnaswami worked with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. There she managed the agency’s refugee status determination work in 23 countries and territories in the Caribbean region, worked to facilitate refugees’ access to economic and social rights, and led training for government officials and UNHCR staff on the international refugee protection framework.
Before that, she was the Peter and Patricia Gruber Fellow in Global Justice at Public Counsel in Los Angeles, where she advocated for precedential protections for children fleeing gang- and cartel-based violence and co-counseled a groundbreaking lawsuit advocating for universal legal representation for children in U.S. deportation proceedings.
She also worked as an attorney at the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network in Denver, Colorado, where she provided legal representation to detained immigrants in the region, and as a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Pasadena, California.
Krishnaswami received her law degree from Yale Law School, where she was a Coker Fellow and an editor of the Yale Law Journal, and her undergraduate degrees from Southern Methodist University, where she was the Robert and Nancy Dedman Outstanding Senior Student. Her writing has appeared in Slate and the Washington Post, and she speaks Spanish and French.