What happens when a feminist, a labor activist and hundreds of immigrants go to Capitol Hill? If what I’ve seen in Washington D.C. the past two days is any indication, a new broad coalition of new bedfellows is taking shape to push for women’s needs to be included as Congress embarks on comprehensive immigration reform.
For starters, women’s advocate Sandra Fluke joined the hundreds of immigrant women who work as domestic workers for a rally at a Washington D.C. church Monday morning.
Immigrant women rally at Washington D.C. church, Image Credit: Elizabeth Rappaport
Historically, feminism and immigration have operated as two separate movements, but why?
“Immigration is one of the most pressing women’s issues of our time,” says Vivien Labaton, co-chair of We Belong Together.
Women often come to the United States under different circumstances than men, and as both Democrats and Republicans make concrete steps toward changing the laws around immigration, now is the time to ensure that these circumstances of women are included in new laws. While the bipartisan Gang of Eight is expected to introduce a bill in the Senate next month, all eight of the high-profile Senators on that committee are men.
So this week, a coalition of women including National Domestic Worker’s Alliance, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, Planned Parenthood, United Farm Workers, NARAL, Ultra Violet are joining for a movement called We Belong Together. I was invited by We Belong Together to witness this advocacy in the capitol.
While the Gang of Eight may be all-male, other female Senators are also stepping up to push for women’s issues to be included in upcoming legislation. On Monday afternoon, Senator Mazie Hirono (HI) led a Senate Judiciary committee hearing with fellow Democrat Al Franken (MN) and Republican Chuck Grassley (IA). An overflow crowd packed the chambers. This morning, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), herself the daughter of Austrian immigrants, voiced her support for immigration reform that ensures women are protected:
“I truly believe every single woman in the country should rally behind comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for all 11M undocumented people," Boxer said. She also stressed the importance of creating real pathways for citizenship. "We can’t have two classes of Americans, one with full citizenship and one with half-citizenship.”
Sen. Barbara Boxer, Image Credit: Grace Hwang Lynch
What’s really impressive to see is such a range of women of different races and socio-economic backgrounds in such an unprecedented way– Latino, Asian, black and white, attorneys and nannies-- sitting together on school buses and in Senate chambers. With all the teeth gnashing recently about the lack of engagement of feminist groups in supporting the issues of women of color, this is an encouraging step. Of all the hot-button issues in Washington, immigration reform is the one where there is public consensus and bipartisan agreement.
“By our vote last November, we said we want comprehensive immigration reform,” Dolores Huerta, co-founder of UFW.
Despite all the support for comprehensive immigration reform, these women will still face opposition. At Monday’s hearing, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) suggested that family reunification laws would burden the U.S.
This afternoon, volunteers will visit 72 legislators on Capitol Hill, advocating for comprehensive immigration laws that include these points for women.
Do you think feminism and immigration reform go together? Tell us what you think or share your stories in the comments.
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