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Jessica Barba Brown's picture

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As a Catholic, my commitment to justice and dignity for immigrant women is rooted not only in Scripture, but also in experience. My church, the Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Washington, DC, holds Masses in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Haitian Creole. Women from diverse walks of life are the lifeblood of the parish: organizing bake sales and religious education programs, serving on parish council together, and decorating the sanctuary at Christmas and Easter. The people selling pupusas and crafts at tables outside the church on Sundays are female immigrants. Many of my meetings with immigrant women have occurred while we're chasing around our respective toddlers in the back of the church.

Immigrant women volunteer regularly at our parish’s dinner program for the poor. Others must rely on it to feed their children. The economic obstacles and injustices all women face are much more severe for new immigrants – especially the undocumented. Outright wage theft is appallingly common, even in the heart of a powerful city like Washington. For many, undocumented status makes exploitation unstoppable and poverty inescapable.

It breaks my heart that women in my own church face such injustice and hardship. It’s also a wake-up call to action. There are countless congregations across the country like Sacred Heart. Millions of women face the constant threat of being torn away from their children and continuously struggle to provide for them.

Part of what I do for a living as Vice President for Program Development at Faith in Public Life is to help faith communities press Congress to build a road to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. One thing we’re doing as the immigration reform debate moves forward is holding a series of public dialogues with women religious leaders called Ruth’s Journey, exploring how immigration is both a women’s issue and a Biblical issue. We will be inviting women Senators like Kay Hagan (NC), Mary Landrieu (LA), and Claire McCaskill (MO) to join us to hear the important testimony of women of faith in advocating for comprehensive immigration reform. I’m praying that lawmakers have ears to hear what we have to say, and that they’ll stand up for women like those in my congregation.

 


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