Marcela Cervantes, who was three years old when she came to Colorado, says about her family, “We came to Colorado from Leon, Guanajuato in Mexico. My grandmother brought us to the United States for a better life, so my mom could find better work and provide for us since she was a single mother with two kids and another on the way.”
Marcela, now 26, is like millions of other women and children who make up three quarters of all immigrants in this country; a daughter, sister, a worker and is now a mother herself. Some of her immediate family members are U.S. citizens, some are not. She lives in fear that any moment, she could be ripped apart from her family simply because our failed immigration system has left her undocumented in the country she grew up in.
Thanks to President Obama’s executive action last week, Marcela will be among close to 5 million undocumented residents eligible for temporary legal status. Joining with labor and immigration organizations, 9to5 thanks President Obama for this executive action. In addition to granting temporary relief from deportation for eligible immigrants, the executive action will modify immigration enforcement practices, hopefully indicating intent to address the backlogs in the family immigration system.
But this is not enough. The time for common-sense immigration reform, more than ever, is now. Congress needs to take the president’s lead and pass comprehensive immigration reform that will strengthen our families, communities and nation and give women like Marcela a real path to citizenship.
As the president stated in a speech, “The story of immigration in America isn’t a story of ‘them’, it’s a story of ‘us’.”
Immigration is a women’s issue. It is a family issue. Women in communities across the country are affected by U.S. immigration policies that undermine their and their families’ well-being.
9o5 stands with our partner We Belong Together and their recent report outlining suggestions for comprehensive immigration reform that values women. We must hold members of Congress accountable for this broken immigration system. Among 9to5 and We Belong Together priorities for comprehensive immigration reform:
- Include a broad and clear road map to citizenship that recognizes the contributions of women’s work and women workers;
- Keep all families together. Women are disproportionately affected by the huge backlog in the family immigration system;
- Recognize women’s work in future employment categories and protect women workers on the job;
- Ensure protections for survivors of violence and trafficking;
- Protect families and ensure due process;
- Promote immigrant integration that includes and empowers women.
Approximately 60 percent of undocumented women are in the labor force, often working as domestic workers or caretakers in industries that do not provide paystubs. The remaining 40 percent of undocumented women are at home caring for their own children and families. Immigration reform must include a clear and accessible roadmap to citizenship, free from unreasonable fees and fines. A variety of documents must be honored as proof of employment, and work done in the home must be recognized.
Too many women and children unfairly bear the brunt of detention and deportation. In a recent two-year period, 23 percent of all deportations were issued for parents with U.S. citizen children. In a nation that values liberty and justice for all, we cannot continue to break apart families and punish aspiring Americans.
Caring for our families and putting our children first is a universal value. Immigrant women and their families need a path to citizenship that recognizes their contributions to our communities and our economy, reunites families, ensures higher education access for immigrant students, protects the rights and dignity of workers, and integrates immigrants into all aspects of community life. We will all benefit from a common-sense immigration process that leads to safe communities, healthy children and a strong economy.
The president’s executive action is a good first step. Now it’s up to Congress to complete the work at hand and pass comprehensive immigration reform.