Women Arrested Demanding Action on Immigration Reform

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This post first appeared at the Immigration Impact blog.

APTOPIX Immigration Reform Rally
Women link arms and sit in a circle blocking an intersection outside the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, to protest Congress' inaction on comprehensive and inclusive immigration reform. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

More than 100 women blocked an intersection outside of the House of Representatives last Thursday to push for House leaders to finally act on immigration reform. Capitol Police officers arrested the 104 women, including more than 20 who are undocumented, for the act of civil disobedience. More than 200 supporters witnessed the arrests and called on the House to match the women’s courage and pass legislation that will fix the U.S. immigration system. “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, at a rally before the arrests.

One of the many consequences of an aggressive immigration enforcement system is the separation of children, often U.S. citizens, from their undocumented immigrant parents.
But more than simply wanting to see Congress approve an overhaul of our nation’s immigration policies, the women demanded reforms that treat women and children fairly. “I refuse to sit by as more women bear the burden of our broken immigration system,” said Ai Jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance who was arrested, before the women’s arrests. As researchers Cecilia Menjívar and Olivia Salcido explain in a report for the Immigration Policy Center, there are specific gender biases in U.S. immigration policies against women, and the barriers these biases create for many women can make it more difficult for them to gain legalization within the current immigration system. These inequalities appear across immigration law, and even as new laws are put into place, stereotypes and assumptions remain unchallenged. They found that any path to citizenship must be open, affordable, and accessible to all immigrant women, including those whose work is unpaid.

And U.S. immigration laws can also harm children. One of the many consequences of an aggressive immigration enforcement system is the separation of children, often U.S. citizens, from their undocumented immigrant parents. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that approximately 5.5 million children in the United States live in mixed-legal status families with at least one parent who is an undocumented immigrant and at risk of deportation. Josie Molina Macaraeg, an 11-year-old with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, is one of those children. “I am a U.S. citizen, but I cannot live my life because my father is in deportation proceedings,” Josie said at the rally before her mother was arrested as part of the civil disobedience. “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.”

Women recite the "Oath for a House United" as they gather before blocking the intersection of Independence Avenue SE and New Jersey Avenue SE outside the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept 12, 2013, to protest Congress' inaction on comprehensive and inclusive immigration reform. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

With a crowded schedule of items the House must debate this fall, some members have argued there might not be time to even consider immigration legislation. Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID) told Univision’s Jorge Ramos that the House might not have time this year for the immigration debate. “We don’t know exactly when we’re going to be able to have this debate,” Labrador said. And if it doesn’t happen in 2013, he doesn’t think it will come up again until 2015.

But the bills are waiting, according to House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), who told WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Tuesday that debates over Syria and the debt limit should not deter them from taking up the piecemeal bills that have already passed committee. “Those bills are ready to go to the floor of the House and it’s my hope they come to the floor of the House as soon as possible,” Goodlatte said. That leaves it up to House leadership now. And as Jayapal explained ahead of Thursday’s protest, officials are elected to multitask, so “there’s really no excuse for the House leadership to not move this forward and for the House not to act.”

Amanda BeadleAmanda Peterson Beadle is a research and communications associate at the American Immigration Council. She received her B.A. in journalism and Spanish from the University of Alabama, where she was editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper The Crimson White and graduated with honors.
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  • Scott

    Controlled Immigration works but when you have undocumented and illegals out bidding contracts from home builders to paving the roads you are depriving American people to support there own family’s. Wages will stay low and there will all ways be an a$$ for every seat and people that will save money to those that have no over head or family to support or pay tax”

  • John F. Rebello

    These illegal immigrants have placed themselves in a position for them and their family to be deported. Stop shifting the blame to a country when it tries to enforce the law that was known all the time. These illegal immigrants are existentially responsible for their actions. Furthermore, was there an outcry when the family was broken up at the time of sneaking into this country?

    For Congress, the true courage is to stand against this bill as, illegal immigrants and other progressive liberals aside, hundreds of millions of dollars are in play to see that this bill goes through. This bill is about big business. Check out the letter given to the house leadership in support of this bill and all the business that signed it–http://www.hrpolicy.org/downloads/2013/CHRO_Immigration_Reform_Letter.pdf. This at a time when tens of thousands of American citizens are un- or under employed.

    Immigration policy needs to reflect the realities of the day. We are the third most populous country in the world, after China and India. Biologist say that population and consumption has brought on the 6th great period of extinction. Water table levels are dropping precipitously. Farmland and open space is being lost at approximately 2 million acres annually in the U.S.

    A policy of increasing population to solve our economic woes is not much of a policy, especially as our economic policy is predicated on the paradigm of every increasing growth. It is insane. We need the sanity of groups like The Center for the Advancement of a Steady State Economy that recognize that increasing growth on a finite planet is suicide. Part of achieving a steady state economy is a stable population, not one that grows by leaps and bounds as under our current immigration policy.

    There are other ways to be compassionate towards the needs of other people in the world without trying to bring them all within the borders of our country. Let’s try some skillful compassion for a change and not forsake reason and clear thinking for the constant emotional stories we tend to hear in more left leaning media.

  • Sonja

    Courageous women!!

  • Sonja
  • Sonja


    It gets so old with uninformed Americans preaching the tired old myths about illegal aliens.

  • Prisoner-of-Christ

    ………..Philippians 4:3……(kjv)……..
    And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those WOMEN which labored with me in the GOSPEL, with Clement also, and with other fellow-laborers, whose NAMES are in the BOOK of LIFE.

  • Prisoner-of-Christ

    Thank-you sister Sonja…..God’s richest blessings.

  • Prisoner-of-Christ

    Scott & John
    An end must always justify a mean, which, actually brings about a desire and a desirable end………..let it be known, comprehensive immigration reform will be pass in the Name of Jesus Christ.

  • Anonymous

    Good. Now, deport them.

  • John F. Rebello

    Jesus may have something to say about how we treat people but nothing about our immigration policy. Like I said, compassion does not mean allowing everyone and anyone come across our borders ad nauseum.

  • Mark Powell
  • Prisoner-of-Christ

    …….Isaiah 55 v 8 & 9…..
    8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
    9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

  • John F. Rebello

    Yes, you are a prisoner of Christ, alright: Imprisoned

  • Prisoner-of-Christ

    He that hath an ear, let him hear what the SPIRIT saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of GOD.

  • Alton

    I’m thinking the same thing.

    If there is no immigration reform this year, none of the Hispanic
    Americans and all the other minorities going to vote for republicans.

    In that case Democratic Party can bring this immigration
    reform again in 2017 and pass it on their own.

    If there is no immigration reform this year, republican
    party going to disappear for at least for next 30 years. I think its republican
    parties choice to bring this immigration reform or not. If republicans think it
    will not happen: then it’s good for them.

    I came to this country to get my masters in EE and I start
    working for a company but that company didn’t apply for my green card. Thank
    god I won the green card lottery.

    Now my question is immigration reform actually can make big difference
    to this economy. But republicans hate immigration (that includes legal and
    illegal) they dragging this for years. I
    and all the other legal immigrates start to dislike Republican Party because of
    their position in immigration. President Bush is the last person on that party
    to embrace immigration (I did vote for him) but his own party failed him. So I will
    not vote for Republican Party again and why would I vote for a party that
    doesn’t like immigrants (legal or illegal)?

  • John F. Rebello

    I don’t know how you come to the conclusion that Republicans don’t like immigrants. I don’t like being in the position of defending Republicans, as I am more of an independent persuasion. Both Democrats and Republicans have played critical roles in allowing illegal immigration to occur. Yes, there are now some Republicans who believe, as do I, that giving legal status to people who are in the country illegally is not a good idea as it goes against the rule of law and only encourages further illegal immigration in the future. But we have the most robust legal immigration policy in the world and neither Republicans or Democrats are putting forth legislation to change this, so how can you say Republicans hate immigrants?

    Your idea that illegal immigrants are a boon to the economy is highly contestable unless you consider the economy of big business.

  • Mark Powell

    Glad you agree. I hope a lot of people will send this to their representatives in Congress. Most House member websites only accept mail from their own districts.