Immigration Policy Reform Can't Ignore Women
Women comprise only 18 percent of Congress. Women comprise 0 percent of the "Gang of Eight" Senators who are drafting immigration reform policy right now. Yet, over 50 percent of all immigrants are women; and if you add children, then that group accounts for two-thirds of all immigrants to our country.
Wonder who might be getting left out as this new policy is being drafted?
As we anticipate a bipartisan consensus from the Senate's "Gang of Eight" attempting to improve our immigration policies, women and mothers across the nation hope they emerge with a bill that reflects the contributions of women who are immigrants, and is designed to protect family unity, strengthen communities, and ensure a thriving economy. The contributions of all immigrants, including stay-at-home mothers and working women in both the formal and informal economy, must not be ignored.
Immigration reform will not succeed if it fails to unite families and to recognize the work of all women.
Across the nation, immigrant women are key contributors to our communities and to our nation's economy. Yet the contributions of undocumented immigrant women who aspire to be citizens frequently go unrecognized -- and no roadmap to citizenship is available to them. While many leaders across the political spectrum agree that it's past time to create a roadmap for citizenship, the concern is that, as in the past, women will be short-changed.
Our current inadequate immigration system has led to more than 5.3 million women in our country living without a roadmap to citizenship and therefore living on the margins of our society. Many who arrive as dependent spouses are denied the right to work legally and face discrimination, placing women at a disadvantage and compromising their personal and economic security.
Too often, in immigration policy discussions, stay-at-home moms and women working in the informal economy, such as domestic workers, are left in limbo. Women who work in the informal economy often don't have documentation of their work history. Therefore, immigration reform that's inclusive must be flexible and not require proof of employment in order for working families, especially women, to qualify.
We must assure that those working in the informal economy -- including those who clean houses, take care of other people's children, or take care of the elderly -- can also benefit from modernized immigration policies.
At the same time, the current immigration policies also inflict pain on women who have entered our country using legal channels, and also must also be updated. The backlog of 4.3 million families members, mostly women and children, as well as decades-long waiting periods for family reunification, are unacceptable. We also cannot accept immigration policies that would threaten our nation's long tradition of allowing immigrants to sponsor spouses, children and siblings for visas.
In short, we must have an inclusive immigration system that recognizes women, children, and workers in all aspects of our economy.
Most people agree. Polls show that the vast majority of voters and business owners understand the importance of passing an inclusive immigration reform.
In fact, a recent poll by the Washington Post showed that 70% of all voters support creating a roadmap to citizenship for the undocumented. Moreover, most small business owners -- nine in ten -- in a recent report by Small Business Majority recognized that our current immigration system is tragically flawed and hence support a bipartisan effort to reform it. Similarly, the Main Street Alliance report shows strong small business support for immigration reform, with further emphasis on the positive role of immigrants in the economy and in communities.
Empowering our families, our businesses, and our nation's economy means that we must seek comprehensive policies that include everyone.
We must work together to advocate for an immigration policy reform that is consistent with our American values of equality for women, justice for all, and family unity.
As mothers, we understand the importance of strengthening our families, empowering women, and building a strong economy. That's why MomsRising.org is advocating for inclusive immigration policy reform that doesn't ignore the contributions and needs of women and families.
Cross posted from Huffington Post.