100 Women, Including More Than 20 Undocumented Immigrants, Arrested for Protesting House’s Inaction on Immigration Reform

Women Together Action

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 yesterday 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.

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.

APALA-DC’s Vice-President of Community Outreach, Jessica Cendana, was among the 100 women arrested:

Wow, I got arrested.

Today I stood side by side with 100 other women including leaders of immigrant rights, community advocates and undocumented immigrant women to demand the House to pass immigration reform that is inclusive of the unique needs of women and families.

Like many immigrant parents, mine wanted to move to the United States to give my brother and I an opportunity to thrive and better our lives. We are now living that dream, however, our current immigration system does not allow the same equal opportunity for all families.  In fact, it tears them apart and children worry that they will have to continue living in the shadows and that their families will be separated due to outdated laws. 

We must demand that the House be able to work on more than one piece of legislation at a time, have more honest dialogue and ensure the voices of those directly impacted are involved. I am an ally and got arrested today for friends, DREAMers, and the 11 million undocumented immigrants. The time in now.

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; Pramila Jayapal of We Belong Together; Bertha Lewis of the Black Institute; Terry O’Neill of NOW; Rocio Inclan of National Education Association; 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.

“Each one of us here today understands what incredibly high stakes we are talking about—immigration reform is not just a piece of legislation but the ability for us to take care of our families,” said Pramila Jayapal, co-chair of We Belong Together: Women for Common-Sense Immigration Campaign. “Women contribute every day to our families, our economy and our country. Immigration reform is about being able to live, breathe free, and remember the values that brought us all here in the first place: democracy, freedom, and justice.”

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.

“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.”

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.

This would follow on the Senate’s overwhelmingly bi-partisan passage of a comprehensive immigration bill in June of this year.

“We cannot build a strong country when children and families do not even know what tomorrow will bring,” said Rocio Inclan, Director of Human and Civil Rights at the National Education Association, the nation’s largest union. “The time is now for fair immigration reform that treats women, children and families fairly.”

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APALA-DC Rallies for Family Unity at the AAPI Day of Action for Immigration Reform

stand w/ families rally

Yesterday, APALA-DC joined immigrant families and allies from over 20 different states in front of the Capitol to rally for fair and just immigration reform. Community leaders spoke to the energized crowd, along with Reps. Judy Chu (CA) Jan Schakowsky (IL).

“Our message is clear,” said APALA’s own Greg Cendana, “America needs united immigrant families for a stronger economy…We will not stand idly by as fathers, mothers and children are detained or deported as immigration reform draws closer. We will not be silenced while family reunification is being used as a bargaining chip in exchange for big business where working Americans are displaced and immigrant workers are exploited by employers seeking to cut costs.”

Stand w/ Families Rally

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Statement from APALA National President Johanna Puno Hester on Immigration Bill Passage to Full Senate

Contact: Diana Bui
 

Statement from APALA National President Johanna Puno Hester on

Immigration Bill Passage to Full Senate

May 22, 2013 – Yesterday marked an important step towards fully realized comprehensive immigration reform. The Senate Judiciary Committee successfully passed the immigration bill with a 13-5 bi-partisan vote. Throughout the two week process, we saw many victories and lost ground with some amendments including family unity for siblings, adult children, and same sex bi-national couples. As the bill moves to the full Senate and in the House, the fight and our work, continues.

I applaud champions such as Senator Richard Blumenthal who offered many amendments that passed on worker protections including labor recruitment regulations to combat trafficking and abuses. Cases like those of the Grand Isle Shipyard workers recruited from the Philippines to Louisiana under false pretenses and harsh conditions will be prevented in the future. Employment based immigration must be transparent, humane and close the loopholes on predatory practices.

The leadership and courage of Senator Mazie Hirono showed the nation that key issues affecting Asian American and Pacific Islanders matter. We thank Senator Hirono and supporters of family reunification for Filipino World War II veterans and access to federal financial aid for DREAMers. Our community has been organizing for years across generations for both the veterans and DREAMers. While I am hopeful for progress, APALA members and allies will continue to mobilize and protect the roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million aspiring citizens.

The largest and deepest cut to our communities is the exclusion of siblings, adult children over 31 years of age, and same-sex bi-national couples from family reunification. Senator Hirono and Senator Leahy were shutdown on their amendments to expand the definition of family. I am personally impacted by family reunification and am extremely disappointed that family unity has become a bargaining chip.

Community and labor across the country will continue to make our voices heard and watch closely as comprehensive immigration reform continues to the full Senate. We will make calls, mobilize in district and share our stories to urge members of congress to stand on the right side of history. The time is now for commonsense legislation.

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The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), AFL-CIO was founded in 1992 as the first and only national organization for Asian Pacific American union members to advance worker, immigrant and civil rights. For more information, visit www.apalanet.org and follow@APALAnational