Congressional Briefing Highlights Need for Immigration Reform
By Rosie Hidalgo, JD
National Director of Public Policy, National Latin@ Network
In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network helped to organize a Congressional briefing on Capitol Hill highlighting the importance of Immigration Reform. The briefing was co-sponsored by the Bipartisan Congressional Women’s Working Group on Immigration Reform, along with numerous national domestic violence and sexual assault organizations. (Because of the government shutdown in October, this briefing took place on November 19th).
Panelists included the Director of Operations from the National Domestic Violence Hotline, two chiefs of police, and an attorney from the National Immigrant Justice Center who provides legal representation for immigrant survivors. They shared information about the specific challenges that immigrant survivors of abuse face and why immigration reform is necessary and urgently needed to meet those challenges and to help victims come out of the shadows. Participants also discussed key legislative provisions and efforts in both the House and Senate and how comprehensive immigration reform would significantly enhance economic self-sufficiency, reduce risks of abuse, and strengthen access to safety and justice.
Norma Mazzei, Director of Operations for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, shared the results of a 6-week survey that the Hotline conducted of Latina callers, in conjunction with Casa de Esperanza. In that survey of 1,300 Latina callers, 39% of the foreign-born Latinas reported that they were afraid of calling the police or going to court for help as a result of the general immigration situation. One caller had stated: “Yes, I’m afraid because I have heard many cases of people reaching out for help and being deported instead.”
Police Chief Tom Manger of Montgomery County, who also serves on the Board of the Major Cities Chiefs of Police Association, emphasized that increasing local law enforcement entanglement with federal immigration enforcement efforts undermines community safety and makes immigrant victims more vulnerable while driving them further into the shadows. He emphasized the need for immigration reform to enhance community safety and well-being.
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican representative from Miami, gave powerful remarks at the briefing, highlighting the important improvements in the bipartisan legislation that reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) this year. She went on to state: “However, even with those protections, the current immigration status of millions of women and children who are seeking a better life in this wonderful country puts abusers and perpetrators of violence in a position of power. This is a shameful consequence of our inability to devise a workable immigration system that secures our borders and confers dignity on all people along with respect for our laws. This is one of the reasons why I am so in favor of supporting immigration reform to ensure that the protections that we have fought for actually reach all of the vulnerable women and children they are designed to help. Immigration reform is a key component to reducing domestic violence and getting rid of economic exploitation throughout our nation. It would be a strong statement to both abusers and would-be-abusers that their free rides are over – that we will side with the vulnerable over the domineering regardless of the immigration status of those involved. And most importantly, survivors of violence will no longer need to decide between freedom from their abusers and the promise of a better life in the United States, two choices which should never stand at crossroads.”
To view some of the materials and fact sheets that provide an overview of provisions in the immigration reform bill that impact immigrant survivors, click here.
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
With Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen