My trip to Washington, DC to participate in the We Belong Together campaign began with inspiring speeches at a Monday night reception. I loved seeing so many powerful, strong, united coalition partners together in one room.
Reproductive rights activist Sandra Fluke was there to stand in support.
Ilyse Hogue, head of NARAL, tweeted her support too from the room:
May Boeve from 350.org came to offer her support as well:
The next day, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) launched the We Belong Together press conference in which grassroots partners the National Domestic Workers Alliance, MomsRising, and newly created We Belong Together came together and spoke about how women immigrants to America seek equality they can’t find elsewhere. They work hard in order to provide for their families.
Pramila Jayapal is a writer and activist who was galvanized after September 11, 2001, to protect the people of color who were victimized in anti-Muslim incidents. She started Hate-Free Zone in Washington state to advocate for immigrants, which then became OneAmerica. She now works with We Belong Together, a national coalition of women’s groups that put the interests of women immigrants at the heart of the comprehensive immigration reform discussion.
Dolores Huerta needs no introduction. She has been active in worker’s and women’s rights for over forty years, and was key in founding the United Farm Workers’ union.
Ai-jen Poo is head of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, a group that organizes to protect domestic workers from exploitation. Her group was key in passing a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in New York and California, and soon several other states around the nation.
As part of We Belong Together advocacy days, several hundred women visited over 72 offices of Congressional leaders to tell the story of what happens when women immigrants are denied and delayed paths to citizenship.
Domestic work in the informal economy (eldercare, childcare, attending to the infirm or to one’s home) is often poorly compensated or without a paper trail. Women who provide these skilled services can face abuse, sexual harassment, or wage theft if unscrupulous employers threaten them over immigration status.
Many DREAMers have a toehold on citizenship, but worry daily about their families. Mixed status is not at all unusual, with some in a family citizens through birth, others have documentation, and others still have no documentation or expired documentation.
Susan Matsubara, Coast Guard servicemember and partner to a Lebanese woman whose papers expire soon, says she gave service willingly to her country because she believes in equality and rights for all. And now she’d like to have her right to help her life partner stay in this country legally affirmed — binational LGBT couples are an important part of family reunification as well. Children and partners need that pathway to citizenship too.
Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner spoke about how women do everything for their families and are key to family economic security.
Dolores Huerta, civil rights and worker’s rights icon, spoke about how the last time immigration reform was addressed was in the 1990s. Too much has happened since then, and backlogs to approve naturalization have become onerous.
Women vote; women are a large percentage of the immigrants in need of citizenship. It’s a universal human value to want to care for your family and experience the freedom and equality of opportunity to develop your abilities to the utmost.
Every time women have had the chance, that’s what they vote for, that’s what they do, and that’s what they support in our laws. Isn’t it time we put women at the center of immigration reform and a host of other family-friendly policies?