Immigrant Women Need Immigration Reform NOW: My Mother’s Story
Editor’s Note: More than 1,200 women from 70 organizations are fasting in 35 states for immigration reform that keeps families together and treats women fairly this month. The month of fasting will culminate April 7-9th, 2014 when 100 women will fast in DC for 48 hours.
Click here to sign the petition urging Speaker Boehner to meet with these courageous women in DC in April.
In 1971, my mom walked out of a plane and set foot on U.S. soil for the very first time. At age 17, she left Guyana, a small provincial country plagued by ethnic conflict and economic instability, for the bright lights of New York City— our world’s financial capital and a place that had more people in one borough than in her entire home country. She didn’t know what to expect. She never owned a television, and the only pictures she had seen of New York City were in postcards and magazines.
Here, in the city that never sleeps, she would have the opportunity to study and live a life free of fear. She would meet my dad in in the halls of her university, and instantly fall in love. He was smart and kind, and silly just like she was. She would live in a tall building just a few blocks from Broadway and look at the window at night to admire theatre-goers in their fur coats and suits before she went to bed, dreading having to take something called the “subway” to her cashier job in the morning. Here, she would open two small grocery stores before working for the State of New York for over 30 years.
Here, my mom would have her first and only child and use all the money she saved to send me to college and see me become the first lawyer in the family. Here, she would live her American dream.
My mom came to the U.S. on a family visa at a time when immigration laws were less harsh and reflected a recognition of the contributions immigrants make to our society and economy. Today, there are millions of women just like my mom at 17—with hopes and dreams of a better future—who will never have the opportunity she did under our current broken immigration policies.
On Christmas day of last year, my mom and I went without food to make a statement to our lawmakers that enough is enough: immigrant women and families cannot wait any longer for justice. There are too many women forced to live in the shadows, not knowing if they will be torn away from their children in the middle of the night. There are too many people who have been waiting for decades to see their loved ones, missing birthdays, graduations, weddings, and funerals. Those are moments they can never get back. We went without Christmas dinner because our lives are firsthand testimony of why commonsense immigration reform needs to happen now.
Next week, I’ll be fasting again, this time for 48 hours and along with 100 other women who are calling for a vote on commonsense immigration reform. We will set up in a tent on the national mall in Washington, D.C., and we will force Speaker Bhoener and other lawmakers who do not want a vote on immigration reform to look at us. We will make them see that women from across the country are paying attention, that we want reform, and that we are willing to put our bodies on the line for justice.
My mom took a big leap of faith and traveled millions of miles to start a life in a big, new place she knew nothing about and where she knew almost no one, so that she could create a brighter tomorrow for herself. She did that, and she also became one of the many, many immigrant women that create a brighter tomorrow for this country every day. Immigrant women are the backbones of their families and give so much to this country. The deserve reform, and they deserve it NOW.