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National Women, Immigrant Rights, Faith and Civil Society Organizations Applaud Movement on Immigration Reform and Call for a Vote on a Bipartisan Bill

October 23,2013

To the Leadership of the House of Representatives,

We, the undersigned organizations, welcome the introduction of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, H.R. 15, a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. Each provision of this bill has been approved with bipartisan support in the Senate or the House.  For too long, our immigration system has ripped families apart, stunted our economic growth, and allowed some of the harshest consequences of failed policies and practices to land on the shoulders of women and children.  The 113th Congress has a responsibility to remedy this system with an inclusive, comprehensive approach and we urge all members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, and especially those who have publically stated their support for comprehensive reform, to co-sponsor this bill and help to move it to the floor for a vote.

Women and children make up 75% of all immigrants to the United States and bear many of the burdens of a failing immigration system.   Immigrant women are entrepreneurs who create jobs, pay taxes and support their families.  They are mothers, sisters, daughters and partners who work to build a better life for their families.  They are caregivers looking after our children and aging relatives. 

Despite their contributions, immigrant women bear the burden of our failed immigration system. Many women face decades-long separations from their families because of backlogs in our family-based visa system and detention policies that threaten their parental rights.  They face difficulty in obtaining employment authorization and claiming back wages because of a lack of parity and protection in our employment and visa laws.  They are taxpayers and wage-earners too often denied access to vital healthcare and safety net programs. And immigrant women survivors of domestic violence and other crimes fear they could be detained or removed if they seek assistance from law enforcement. 

Women—immigrant and US-born alike—know that immigration reform is central to advancing women’s equality.  We are confident that a sensible solution is in reach that recognizes the courage, contributions, and commitment of the millions of women who support a common-sense approach to comprehensive immigration reform. 

H.R. 15 is based on the Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill, S. 744, which passed with strong bipartisan support in June. The bill reflects the tough compromises worked out in the Senate earlier this year, and also includes a bipartisan border security measure, which the House Homeland Security Committee unanimously approved this past summer (Border Security Results Act of 2013, H.R. 1417).  H.R. 15 is by no means a perfect bill.  Instead, it reflects the good-faith negotiations of the U.S. Senate and the difficult concessions already made by women’s and immigrants’ rights advocates.  However, a strong coalition of women’s organizations worked closely with Senators on both sides of the aisle to ensure that the bill’s essential provisions recognize the particular priorities and needs of immigrant women. 

Specifically, this bill:

  •          Includes a pathway to citizenship with flexible proof of employment for the millions of women who work in informal industries, which are often paperless, and exceptions to employment requirements for primary caregivers;
  •          Reunites millions of families separated by our failed immigration system as backlogs are cleared, and expedites the visa process for spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents;
  •          Expands protections for survivors of domestic violence and trafficking, and for exploited workers, many of whom are women;
  •          Provides stronger protections along the border, strengthens parental rights, and allows waivers in certain hardship cases; and
  •          Allows certain removed relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent residents to safely and lawfully return to the U.S. and apply for legalization.

At the same time, we know that the bill must still be strengthened in order to sufficiently address the concerns and needs of women and children.  We are committed to continuing to ensure that any bill that comes to a vote is the best possible bill.  Specific areas that we would urge Members of Congress to improve in this bill include:

  •          Ensure that the family-based immigration system stays strong by continuing sponsorship of adult children and siblings;
  •          Ensure that border communities are not subject to continuing militarization and harsh treatment, and include strong due process protections for border communities and migrants seeking asylum and other forms of humanitarian relief;
  •          Ensure that the path to citizenship is not obstructed by onerous fees, penalties, and other obstacles, which would exclude millions of aspiring citizens and their families without individualized consideration; and
  •          Ensure that women and families can live with health and dignity, and fully contribute to and participate in our health care and family support systems.

We believe this bill advances many comprehensive, sensible, and humane solutions that improve our immigration policies in ways that treat women and children fairly.  We simply cannot continue to live with a deeply flawed system that keep millions of women and children in the shadows, separated from their families, and highly vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, and denial of basic human rights.

H.R. 15 stands on the common ground that has already been laid by bipartisan votes in the House and the Senate. We thank the bill’s sponsors for their dedication to achieving comprehensive immigration reform.  We urge the twenty-six Republican members of Congress who publicly support a pathway to citizenship to join the five original sponsors of H.R.15 in supporting this bill.  And we call upon the House leadership to respect the will of the American people and bring comprehensive immigration reform to a vote. Women and children around the country are depending on you.

Signed,

Organizations signing on to the letter:

Regional Organizations

9to5 Atlanta, Atlanta, GA

9to5 California, Los Angeles, CA

9to5 Colorado, Denver, CO

9to5 Wisconsin, Milwaukee, MN

Alexandra House, Inc., Blaine, MN

Alianza de Mujeres Campesinas, Apopka, FL

Anna Marie's Alliance, St. Cloud, MN

Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Phoenix, AZ

Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Los Angeles, CA

Asian Women United of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

Bluff Country Family Resources         , Hokah, MN

Border Action Network, Tucson, AZ

California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, Sacramento, CA

California Partnership, Oakland, CA

Caminar Latino, Inc, Atlanta, GA

CHOICES Memphis Center for Reproductive Health, Memphis, TN

Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), Los Angeles, CA

Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Denver, CO

Committee Against Domestic Abuse, Inc., Mankato, MN       

Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio (CLUES), Minneapolis, MN

Connecticut Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission, Hartford, CT

Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence,          Wilmington, DE

Domestic Abuse Project           , Minneapolis, MN

El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos, Albuquerque, MN

End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, Madison, WI

Enlace Comunitario, Albuquerque, NM

Freeborn County Crime Victims Crisis Center, Albert Lea, MN

Grossman Law, LLC, Rockville, MD

Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network, Oakland, CA

Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Springfield, IL

Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN

Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, Portland, ME

Jane Doe Inc., the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, Boston, MA

Jewish Community Action, St. Paul, MN

Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, Topeka, KS

Kentucky Domestic Violence Coalition, Frankfort, Kentucky

Lakes Crisis and Resource Center, Detroit Lakes, MN

Law Office of Laura A. Walker, Denver, CO

Lesbian Health Initiative, Houston, TX

Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center, Los Angeles, CA

Loyola University New Orleans College of Law Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice, New Orleans, LA

Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence, Lanham, MD

Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, Boston, MA

Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, St Paul, MN

Missouri Immigrant and Refugee, St. Louis, MO

Mujeres Luchadoras Progresistas, Woodburn, OR

National Organization of Women, New York, NY

New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, Concord, NH

New Mexico Voices for Children, Albuquerque, NM

New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, New York, NY

Ohio Domestic Violence Network, Columbus, OH

OneAmerica, Seattle,WA

Pathways of West Central MN, Inc., Montevideo, MN

PCUN Oregon's Farmworker Union Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, Woodburn, OR

Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Harrisburg, PA

Political Asylum Immigration Representation Project, Boston, MA

Reformed Church of Highland Park, NJ

Reproductive Health Access Project, New York, NY

SC Victim Assistance Network, Columbia, SC

Someplace Safe           , Fergus Falls, MN

South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (SCCADVASA), Columbia, SC

Southwest Crisis Center, Worthington, MN

St. Louis Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America, St. Louis, MO

Tacoma Community House, Tacoma, WA

Tubman Family Alliance, Minneapolis, MN

UC Irvine, Long Beach, CA

UFCW #655, St. Louis, MO

Unidos Now, Sarasota, FL

Violence Intervention Program, New York, NY

Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, Richmond, VA

Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Seattle, WA

Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights, Ypsilanti, MI

West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Elkview, WV

WI-AR Institute, LLC, Columbus, OH

Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault (WCASA), Madison, WI

YWCA Central MA, Worcester, MA

YWCA Lafayette, Lafayette, IN

 

National

9to5

Abortion Care Network, Washington, DC

Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Oxnard, CA

Alliance for a Just Society, Seattle, WA

American Civil Liberties Union, Washington, DC

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Washington, DC

American Jewish Committee, Washington DC

Americans for Immigrant Justice, Miami, FL

Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, Washington, DC

Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence, San Francisco, CA

Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC, Washington, DC

ASISTA Immigration Assistance, Des Moines, IA

Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations, Washington, DC

Association of Reproductive Health Professionals (ARHP), Washington, DC

AVANCE, San Antonio, TX

Breakthrough, New York, NY

Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities, St. Paul, MN

CCCFL, Orlando, FL

Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, San Francisco, CA

Center for Women Policy Studies, Chevy Chase, MD

Coalition of Labor Union Women, Washington, DC

Community Organizations in Action, Seattle, WA

Direct Care Alliance, Washington, DC

Farmworker Justice, Washington, DC

First Focus Campaign for Children, Washington, DC

Forward Together, Portland, OR

Friends Committee on National Legislation, Washington, DC

Futures Without Violence, Washington, DC

Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network, Washington, DC

Hispanic National Bar Association, Arlington, VA

Hmong National Development, Inc, Washington DC

Institute for Science and Human Values, Inc, Tampa, FL

Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community, St. Paul, MN

Jobs with Justice, Washington, DC

League of United Latin American Citizens, Washington, DC

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Baltimore, MD

MANA, A National Latina Organization          , Washington, DC

MomsRising.org

Ms. Foundation for Women, Brooklyn, NY

NARAL Pro-Choice America, Washington, DC

National Advocates for Pregnant Women, New York, NY

National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, Washington, DC

National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association, Denver, CO

National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), Washington, DC

National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, Washington, DC

National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women's Health, Washington DC

National Center for Lesbian Rights, Washington, DC

National Center for Victims of Crime, Washington, DC

National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women, Philadelphia, PA

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Denver, CO

National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs         , New York, NY

National Council of Jewish Women, Washington, DC

National Council of La Raza, Washington, DC

National Domestic Violence Hotline/Dating Abuse Helpline, Austin TX

National Domestic Workers Alliance, New York, NY

National Education Association, Washington, DC

National Employment Law Project, New York, NY

National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), Washington, DC

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, Washington DC

National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC), Pasadena, CA

National Immigrant Justice Center, Chicago, IL

National Immigration Law Center, Los Angeles, CA

National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Washington, DC

National Network to End Domestic Violence, Washington, DC

National Organization of Women

National People's Action, Chicago, IL

National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, Harrisburg, PA

National Women's Law Center, Washington, DC

Organizing for Action, Minneapolis, MN

Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Washington DC

Pre-Health Dreamers, San Francisco, CA

Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Washington, DC

Reproductive Health Technologies Project, Washington, DC

Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS), Washington, DC

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Silver Springs, MD

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), Takoma Park, MD

Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, Washington, DC

Southern Poverty Law Center, Atlanta, GA

Tahirih Justice Center, Falls Church, VA

The Advocates for Human Rights, Minneapolis, MN

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights,        Washington, DC

Unitarian Universalist Association, Washington, DC

We Belong Together: Women for Common Sense Immigration Reform

Women's Refugee Commission, Washington DC

YWCA USA, Washington, DC