100 Women, Including More Than 25 Undocumented Immigrants, Risk Arrest to Demand Immigration Reform that Treats Women Fairly

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 12, 2013

Contact: 

Heidi Overbeck, 646-200-5325
heidi.overbeck@berlinrosen.com

Hundreds more women and children call on the House to pass fair immigration reform that values women and keeps families together

WASHINGTON, DC—Approximately 100 women – including 25 undocumented immigrants – are risking arrest today, Thursday, September 12th by blockading the intersection outside the House of Representatives to protest their inaction on comprehensive and inclusive immigration reform that treats women and children fairly. The event will be live streamed at: http://bit.ly/912CDWBT.

The act of civil disobedience will include the largest number of undocumented immigrant women to willingly submit to arrest. The 100 women risking arrest are coming from 20 states across the country. They are participating to draw attention to the fact that women and children constitute three-quarters of immigrants to the U.S. and bear the disproportionate burden of a broken immigration system. An additional 200 supporters will stand witness for the group and call on the House to match their courage by passing fair and inclusive immigration reform.

“Each one of us here today understands what incredibly high stakes we are talking about—immigration reform is not just a piece of legislation but the ability for us to take care of our families,” said Pramila Jayapal, co-chair of We Belong Together: Women for Common-Sense Immigration Campaign. “Women contribute every day to our families, our economy and our country. Immigration reform is about being able to live, breathe free, and remember the values that brought us all here in the first place: democracy, freedom, and justice.”

Prior to the act of civil disobedience, more than 300 women and children will gather for a press conference in front of the Capitol Building, where national leaders – including Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, ranking minority member on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security; Pramila Jayapal of We Belong Together; Bertha Lewis of the Black Institute; Terry O’Neill of NOW; Rocio Inclan of National Education Association; and three undocumented women – will speak out about how women disproportionately bear the burden of the failed system, despite their considerable contributions to the wellbeing of their families, communities and the country.

Faith leaders will lead the entire group in taking an Oath for a House United. Following the arrests, children will deliver “red hearts of courage” to House leadership and key swing representatives to embolden them to take action for comprehensive immigration reform.

“Women have fought for centuries to be recognized, to have the right to vote, to work and be paid for it, to realize their full potential. We must continue to fight for millions of immigrant women to get that same recognition,” said Terry O’Neill, President of the National Organization for Women. “I am proud to stand with them and demand that the House pass immigration reform that treats women fairly.”

Women participating in the civil disobedience are demanding that the House of Representatives shows courage in passing fair immigration reform that includes the priorities of women: a roadmap to citizenship for undocumented women, a strong family immigration system which remains the primary way that women obtain legal status, and strong protections for women workers and victims of violence.

Currently, 51% of undocumented immigrants are women, but less than one-third of employment visas are issued to immigrant women each year. The majority of the four million people currently in the family immigration backlog are women who often wait decades to be reunited with their families.

“I am 11 years old, and I am a U.S. citizen, but I cannot live my life because my father is in deportation proceedings, said Josie Molina Macaraeg, a leader with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. “To me, courage is all of the children who go to school every day wondering if their parents will still be there when they come home at the end of the day. And courage is also my mom, who is here risking arrest today so she can fight for my future, our family’s future, and the rights of all families to be together.”

The civil disobedience action highlights the moral urgency of the call for House leadership to move forward a fair immigration reform bill, rather than inaction or piecemeal and inhumane enforcement bills such as those currently in the House. This would follow on the Senate’s overwhelmingly bi-partisan passage of a comprehensive immigration bill in June of this year.

““We cannot build a strong country when children and families do not even know what tomorrow will bring,” said Rocio Inclan, Director of Human and Civil Rights at the National Education Association, the nation’s largest union. “The time is now for fair immigration reform that treats women, children and families fairly.”

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We Belong Together is a national campaign to advocate for immigration reform that treats women fairly. Priorities include a roadmap to citizenship; keeping families together and upholding the family immigration system; protecting survivors of violence; preventing workplace abuses; honoring women’s work inside and outside of the home; and rejecting harsh enforcement measures. We Belong Together is co-anchored by the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. For more info, visit www.webelongtogether.org.