Sen. Mazie Hirono (HI) and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) speak in advance of Senate Judiciary hearing
More than 500 people from a coalition of women’s groups gathered at the Capitol Monday to amplify the voices of immigrant women and show that women’s voices are essential to immigration policy reform. Advocates are asking Congress to remember that immigrant women are vital contributors to the American economy and to advance policies that defend women and families and support healthy families for strong communities.
In support of that goal, Senator Mazie Hirono (HI) presided over a historic, full hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on how comprehensive immigration policy reform should address the needs of women and families. Advocates packed the hearing room to offer support for reform that advances women and families, overflowing into an additional room to view the hearing live via television.
The hearing and the rally are the highlights of March for Immigrant Women: A Month of Action for Citizenship, Families, and Justice, a national effort to elevate voices in support of immigrant women.
“We need to ensure that our immigration system continues to allow immigrant women to build strong families and strong communities,” said Senator Hirono (HI) at the rally. “Immigration reform should make the family immigration system stronger, not weaker. We cannot stand by and let a broken system keep families separated.”
Women make up more than half of immigrants in the United States, but immigration policies rarely address gender issues and have historically created unequal treatment for women. Immigrant women are the drivers of integration — they encourage their families to learn English, succeed in school and business, pursue naturalization and fulfill civic responsibilities. Effective conversations about immigration policy changes must include immigrant women to succeed.
At Monday’s rally, prominent speakers, including Senator Hirono (HI); Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40); MomsRising Executive Director/CEO Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner; Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center; Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH); Miriam Yeung, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF); and Michelle Brané, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC), offered remarks that underscored the incredible contributions of immigrant women and urged Congress to address gender issues in immigration reform policy.
“Comprehensive Immigration Reform must enable all undocumented immigrant women — stay at home moms, domestic workers and caretakers — to come out of the shadows. It must also end the enforcement policies that continue to shatter families and cruelly separate mothers from their sons and daughters. Monday’s rally has amplified these women’s voices, and I will continue to fight to make sure they are heard as we work together to secure comprehensive immigration reform.”
A broad coalition of women’s rights groups, including NLIRH, NAPAWF, WRC, Advocates for Youth, Asian American Justice Center, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Choice USA, First Focus Campaign for Children, Forward Together, Labor Council for Latina American Advancement, MomsRising, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Council of Jewish Women, National Council of Women’s Organizations, National Domestic Worker’s Alliance, National Immigration Law Center, National Organization for Women, National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, South Asian Americans Leading Together, United States Student Association, United We Dream, We Belong Together and YWCA USA participated in the rally, showing that a growing chorus of voices recognize that immigration is a women’s rights issue.
“Immigration is a women’s rights issue,” said the National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights. “Strong families produce strong communities and a strong economy. Smart reform must put the family unit back at the core of our immigration policy process. Immigrant women made their voices loud and heard Monday. Now is the time to include those voices to achieve reform that supports women, families and American values.”
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