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Immigration reform is a women's issue

The overwhelming majority of undocumented women are mothers – high-value, low-risk members of society. As workers, wives, and pillars of their communities, they have particular needs from any immigration reform bill.

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A majority female crowd listens to testimony during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on immigrant women and immigration reform on Capitol Hill on March 18. Op-ed contributor Kit Miller writes: Most immigrant women 'are active in their schools and churches, and are role models of civic engagement. I know this because many such women have come through my class in English as a second language.'

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

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As Washington lawmakers throw themselves into comprehensive immigration reform, I say, “Remember the women.”

Women constitute more than half of America’s undocumented immigrant population. They have a huge stake in the new bipartisan immigration overhaul, crafted by eight men in the Senate and introduced as legislation this week.

Undocumented mothers, especially, are making history by advocating for comprehensive immigration reform. I saw them at the Capitol last month, testifying before Congress. They spoke of husbands serving in the military and children hoping to attend college. Maybe they were afraid, but they conquered their fear and testified.

Most immigrant women are law-abiding – apart from their crime of entering the United States without a visa. Still, they are grateful to be here and believe in giving back. They respect authority. They’re active in their schools and churches, and are role models of civic engagement.

I know this because many such women have come through my class in English as a second language. I’ve taught them, been in their homes, gotten to know their families. They are honest and generous to a fault, pay their share, always offer food, take in family, and make sure their kids are fed and clean and going to school. They also pay taxes: sales taxes, housing taxes, employment taxes. It’s estimated that when undocumented residents become citizens, it will add $1.5 trillion to America’s economy over a decade.

The overwhelming majority of undocumented women are mothers – high-value, low-risk members of society. And, as workers, wives, and pillars of their communities, they have particular needs from any immigration reform bill.

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