Hundreds more women and children called on the House to pass fair immigration reform that values women and keeps families together
WASHINGTON, DC—Approximately 100 women were arrested this morning after blockading the intersection outside the House of Representatives to protest the House’s inaction on comprehensive immigration reform that treats women and children fairly.
Sarah Regenspan of the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network in Pittsburgh was one of the 100 women arrested outside of the Capitol.
“I see my fellow college and high school classmates who have struggled to get the appropriate papers so that they can take advantage of the DACA, Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals. While the “dreamers” have a chance, their families do not,” said Regenspan. “I can’t imagine being separated from my mom and dad during this important time of life. I got arrested today because immigration reform is crucial so that every young person has the same chance I do to live out their dreams.”
The act of civil disobedience included the largest number of undocumented immigrant women to willingly submit to arrest. The 100 women who were arrested came from 20 states across the country to draw attention to the fact that women and children constitute three-quarters of immigrants to the U.S. and disproportionately bear the burden of the failed immigration system. An additional 200 supporters stood witness for the group and called on the House to match their courage by passing fair and inclusive immigration reform.
This summer, the Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform legislation that included a pathway to citizenship on a strong bipartisan vote of 68-32. Through lobby days, phone banks, events and rallies, Pittsburgh immigration advocates are keeping the pressure on local House members to take an up-or-down vote on the Senate bill when they return from recess.
Pittsburgh immigration advocates recently visited the offices of Representatives Doyle, Rothfus and Murphy to deliver half cakes meant to highlight that the job of immigration reform remains only half finished. Rep. Tim Murphy’s staff refused the group and called the police, signifying an unwillingness to consider immigration reform. Rep. Murphy’s opposition to immigration reform is shared by many of his colleagues in the House and advocates across the nation are intensifying the protest against inaction on a comprehensive bill.
Prior to the act of civil disobedience, more than 300 women and children gathered for a press conference in front of the Capitol Building, where national leaders – including Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, ranking minority member on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security and three undocumented women – spoke out about how women disproportionately bear the burden of the failed system, despite their considerable contributions to the wellbeing of their families, communities and the country.
“I am 11 years old, and I am a U.S. citizen, but I cannot live my life because my father is in deportation proceedings, said Josie Molina Macaraeg, a leader with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.“To me, courage is all of the children who go to school every day wondering if their parents will still be there when they come home at the end of the day. And courage is also my mom, who is here risking arrest today so she can fight for my future, our family’s future, and the rights of all families to be together.”
Faith leaders led the entire group in taking an Oath for a House United. Following the arrests, children delivered “red hearts of courage” to House leadership and key swing representatives to embolden them to take action for comprehensive immigration reform.
“Women have fought for centuries to be recognized, to have the right to vote, to work and be paid for it, to realize their full potential. We must continue to fight for millions of immigrant women to get that same recognition,” said Terry O’Neill, President of the National Organization for Women. “I am proud to stand with them and demand that the House pass immigration reform that treats women fairly.”
Women who participated in the civil disobedience are demanding that the House of Representatives shows courage in passing fair immigration reform that includes the priorities of women: a roadmap to citizenship for undocumented women, a strong family immigration system which remains the primary way that women obtain legal status, and strong protections for women workers and victims of violence.
Currently, 51% of undocumented immigrants are women, but less than one-third of employment visas are issued to immigrant women each year. Seventy percent of immigrant women therefore enter the U.S. through the family visa system, which is so backlogged that women and children can wait decades to be reunited with their families.
The civil disobedience action highlights the moral urgency of the call for House leadership to move forward a fair immigration reform bill, rather than inaction or piecemeal and inhumane enforcement bills such as those currently in the House.