Leading women’s rights and immigration reform advocates announced Wednesday that they plan to turn up the heat on Republicans in the U.S. House who are standing in the way of immigration reform.
Reps. Suzan DelBene (D-WA) and Judy Chu (D-CA) joined organizers of We Belong Together, a campaign to mobilize women in support of immigration reform, on a press call discussing the group’s plans to push back against a consensus that there will be no movement on immigration reform this year. The group plans a month of fasting and other protest activities in March, and will soon release data on which congressional districts could be swayed by women voters who are mobilized on immigration.
“Women and children are disproportionately affected by our broken system,” said DelBene. About 75 percent of immigrants in the United States are women and children.
“Mothers are separated from their children when they are detained and deported, domestic violence victims fear reporting their abuser because of their immigration status,” said Chu.
Both representatives said that the votes are there to pass immigration reform in Congress, but that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is standing in the way.
When asked how the coalition plans to have any effect when reform this year is widely understood to be dead, Pramila Jayapal, chair of We Belong Together, said that if the Republican leadership “really looks at the cost” of not moving immigration forward, they might realize their mistake. “The timeline cannot be dictated by a small group of people,” she said.
Ana Garcia-Ashley, executive director of the grassroots faith-based organization the Gamaliel Foundation, said Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has shifted his views somewhat after taking consistent meetings with her community.
“It is public pressure that can change things,” Chu said. “Look at Hurricane Sandy. There would not have been a vote on that had there not been public outrage.”
Maria Galvan, an undocumented mother of two, shared her experiences with reporters on the call. She said that while she is grateful for the temporary protections her children will receive under DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), it is not enough.
“Our family is still not safe,” she said. “I know DACA is only temporary, and my husband and I could be deported at any moment.”