FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 19, 2013
Leslie Patterson, 646-200-5326
(Washington, DC)—The day before she receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, for her leadership on women’s rights, Gloria Steinem identified the passage of immigration reform as critical to the fight for women’s equality at a panel discussion and press conference held by We Belong Together, an organization advocating for immigration reform that treats women humanely and fairly.
“Historically, globally, it is women who have been on the road. If you look at refugees, migrants, those who are affected by conflict and need to find work and move for a better life, the majority have been women,” said Steinem. “Immigration is a women’s issue, and we need to change consciousness to help people understand this truth.”
Steinem’s participation in today’s event constitutes the latest in a growing swell of women’s leadership in the pro-reform movement.
She was joined by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), the only immigrant in the U.S. Senate and champion of provisions that benefit women in the Senate immigration bill; Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA); WeBelong Together Co-Chairs Pramila Jayapal, an immigrant rights leaders, and Vivien Labaton, a third wave feminist leader; Janet Murguía, President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza; Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, CEO/Executive Director and Co-Founder of MomsRising and impacted women and immigrant rights organizers Barbara Young from Barbados and Maria A. from Mexico.
“I’m always scared, I’m living in the shadows. When I see a police car, my heart jumps,” said Maria A., a domestic worker who put her earnings toward sending her son in Mexico through school and law school. “That’s why I decided to start doing something. I think a lot of times people don’t think immigration reform is about women. It’s about women like me.”
Despite continued political gridlock caused by House Republican leadership, support for immigration reform is in fact on the rise. Among House Republicans, 28 have come out in favor of immigration reform with a path to citizenship, and three of them – Reps. Jeff Denham (R-CA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and David Valadao (R-CA) – have cosponsored the comprehensive immigration reform legislation in the House.
“To be against sane, humane immigration reform is to be against women in this country,” said Sen. Hirono.
Meanwhile a House Women’s Working Group on Immigration Reform, convened by Rep. Roybal-Allard and others, has been writing Dear Colleague letters and making speeches about the importance of passing bipartisan immigration reform that addresses the unique needs of immigrant women.
“We are confident that if we get a vote in the House it will pass,” said Rep. Roybal-Allard.
The diverse all-women panel discussed the need to recognize that the face of immigration is predominantly women and children. They criticized the current immigration system for its bias toward male immigrants, citing that most work visas go to employment categories typically held by men, like tech jobs, over employment categories predominantly occupied by women,like domestic work and care-giving, despite the high demand for such work.
They also discussed the need to remove the barriers that keep women from living up to their full potential as entrepreneurs, professionals, volunteers, mothers, caregivers and political leaders Through personal stories, each panelist shared experiences moving for a better life, working in abusive conditions, and fighting the long fight for women’s dignity and equality.
“Women across the country are breaking the silence,” said Pramila Jayapal, co-chair of We Belong Together. “We’re showing that immigration reform is a matter of heart. We know that political leadership comes and goes, we know that it rises and falls but what will continue to endure is the drive for heartfelt change that allows women and families to lead better lives.”
Since January 2013, the We Belong Together campaign and its partners have engaged hundreds of thousands of women and girls across the country in taking action for not only comprehensive immigration reform, but reform that addresses the unique needs of women and children and keeps families together.
Janet Murguía, President and CEO of theNational Council of La Raza, called on both parties “to take a keen look at the political dimension on this issue and to understand fundamentally that our groups do vote and we will hold accountable those who have been a barrier to immigration reform.”
Images of today’s panel discussion and press conference are available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/womentogether/sets/72157637853481626/
About We Belong Together
We Belong Together is an initiative of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the National Asian Pacific American Womens Forum, with the participation of women’s organizations, immigrant rights groups, children, and families across the country. It is a campaign to mobilize women in support of common-sense immigration reform that will keep families together and empower women. Immigration reform is rarely thought of as a women’s issue, but in fact it is central to the fight for women’s equality. Millions of immigrant women who are part of the fabric of our communities, workplaces, and schools are blocked from achieving their full potential because of a broken immigration system.