Hundreds of Women Gather on Capitol Hill to Push for Inclusive Immigration Reform
By Mel Fabrikant Tuesday, March 19, 2013, 04:21 PM EDT
Hundreds of women immigrants and community leaders from across the country gathered in Washington this week to push for common sense immigration reform that addresses the priorities of women. Following a morning rally with Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), and other women immigrants, leaders, and supporters, Senator Hirono held a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee. It was the first such hearing related to the current immigration reform efforts that focused on the challenges and contributions of immigrant women, ranging from deportations and family reunification to violence and domestic abuse in immigrant communities. Hirono said in her opening statement, “I know firsthand that immigration is a women’s issue and a family issue. It’s from my own experience as an immigrant that I believe immigration reform should make the family immigration system stronger, not weaker. And we should not ignore the challenges immigrant women face.”
Ai-jen Poo, Co-founder and Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, testified at the hearing, which was attended by Senators Franken (D-MN), Grassley (R-IA) and Sessions (R-AL). During her testimony, Ms. Poo told the Committee, “Common sense immigration reform must put the priorities of women at the forefront. Immigration reform IS a women’s issue, central to equality and opportunity for all American women, and central to the well-¬being of the nation as a whole.”
On Tuesday, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Dolores Huerta, and several leading women’s rights and labor activists joined the campaign for a press conference. Senator Boxer said, “We must pass comprehensive immigration reform that lifts women out of poverty, keeps families together and provides a real path to citizenship. I am proud to stand with women from across the country in calling for reforms that will fix our broken immigration system, protect women from abuse and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.”
Senator Boxer was joined at the press conference by Patricia Francois, an undocumented domestic worker from New York. Francois said, “Immigrant women domestic workers do the work that makes all other work possible. Hundreds of thousands of us give our hearts and our health to care for all generations in this country, yet our contributions often go unrecognized. For far too long, we have been invisible. It is time for immigrant women workers to be recognized for the work that we do."
The events were part of a Week of Action by We Belong Together, a campaign of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, as well as other women’s groups. Women from 24 different states met with nearly 50 members of Congress to discuss the importance of considering the needs of women in developing immigration reform legislation. The campaign calls for a clear roadmap to citizenship, keeping families together, workplace protections for immigrant workers, measures to prevent violence and trafficking, and safeguards for parental rights and due process.
"This is a historic moment in the debate on immigration reform, in which women across the country--immigrant and non-immigrant--are raising their voices to ensure the challenges and contributions of immigrant women who seek opportunity and equality here in the U.S. are highlighted and heard," said Pramila Jayapal, Co-chair, along with Viven Labaton, of We Belong Together.