The National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights held a Senate briefing yesterday afternoon in anticipation of comprehensive immigration reform legislation that is expected to be introduced in the Senate by mid-May. The Coalition, whose founding members include the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, the National Organization for Women, Legal Momentum, and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, expressed to the attendees the current lack of gender specific perspectives surrounding immigration reform debates and reasons why such perspectives are imperative.
Courtney Chappell from the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum noted that approximately half of all immigrants presently residing in the United States are women, with one in five children born in the US to immigrant mothers. JoAnne Lin, Senior Staff Attorney at Legal Momentum, estimates that 9 million women and children will benefit from comprehensive immigration legislation. Therefore, the coalition calls for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship while tending to the needs of immigrant women, economic autonomy and security, legal protection against all forms of violence, and access to healthcare and social services, including reproductive health and family planning services.
National Organization for Women Executive Vice President Olga Vives spoke of the economic hardships of immigrant women, noting that 31 percent of all immigrant women live below the poverty line. Immigrant women are grossly overrepresented in domestic work, which includes some of the lowest-paid service labor in the country. With limited access to childcare, Medicaid, and government aid programs (including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), it becomes vital that issues unique to immigrant women are considered in immigration reform policy.
A comprehensive immigration reform bill, the Security through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy Act of 2007 (STRIVE Act of 2007), was introduced in the House last month.