Women Stand Up and Get Arrested for Immigration Reform

September 20, 2013

Organizers Pramila Jayapal and Megan Macaraeg get arrested in DC. Photo by Jen Soriano, We Belong Together

now, women comprise 51% of people migrating to the United States, and women and
children make up three-fourths of immigrants in this country. Approximately 60%
of undocumented immigrant women are in the labor force. These stats show that
not only does immigration reform matter to most people in America; it also disproportionately
impacts women, children and families -- many of whom are suffering within our
broken immigration system. 

Friday, September 13, 2013 roughly 200 women came to D.C. to march, blockade,
protest and get arrested as a part of a mass demonstration on Capitol
Hill.  We Belong Together, an initiative
of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) and the National
Domestic Workers Alliance
(NDWA), organized the action. The protest featured
various women’s groups that gathered, held hands in a circle and sat down on
Independence Ave between Capitol Hill and House members’ offices. By the end of
the day over 100 women were arrested as they called for a move on immigration

women were calling for policy goals that include and empower women -- goals
that include a broad and clear roadmap to citizenship, keeping families
together, and resolving massive backlogs in immigration processing.

and Latino communities have the two highest immigration rates to the US, with
women being a big part of this fast growing population – likewise the protest
brought out women’s groups from API and Latino movements, as well as other
groups that have previously not taken on a prominent role with immigration
reform, like the National Organization of Women (NOW).

"API women participated in the action to represent the
millions of API women immigrants who are deeply affected by our broken
immigration system.” Says Pramila Jayapal, Co-chair of the We Belong Together

API women like Ingrid Cruz, a teacher
and immigrant from the Philippines and H-1B visa holder living in Louisiana,
who along with hundreds of teachers, she was exploited and abused by labor
recruiters with a history of felony offenses

This historic action also included the largest number of
undocumented immigrant women to willingly submit to arrest . Undocumented women
face increased risk of exploitation, abuse and even rape from employers and
undocumented women in domestic violence situations are often less likely and
less able to leave their abusive situations or report abuse due to fears of
deportation. Every day more than 1000 people are deported, many of them women.
Women that are often torn apart from their children, who are left behind in
this country.

Macaraeg, Organizing Director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights
(TIRRC) points to the fact
that immigration reform is not just policy to many women, but an issue that deeply
impacts their lives and the lives of their communities. For her, it’s the story
of her neighbors, her daughters, her ex-husband, and her entire family. Megan’s
ex-husband, an immigrant from El Salvador and father of her two daughters, was
arrested in a pre-dawn apartment raid and forced into deportation proceedings.
Her daughters are now fighting to keep their dad in the country he calls home. Keeping
families together was one of the big points of Friday’s protest, and Megan’s
family is one of thousands affected by forced separations and deportations
under the current system.

Bui, Co-chair of NAPAWF’s DC Chapter, emphasizes the need for policy to reflect
what is happening on the ground: “Now is the time to escalate in action and
make our demands even louder. It’s time we ended the criminalization of
undocumented immigrants, especially women.”

often, communities and people who have been impacted the most are the ones who
are left voiceless and left out of the policy picture. This time, women rose
together, sat together, and got arrested together to ensure that they would not
be forgotten nor  silenced during this
crucial time. They have made their actions, now it is time for our policymakers
to listen to them and realize that a policy that helps women will help our
country become a stronger and more inclusive nation.



Nadia Hussain

Political Blogger

S. Nadia Hussain is a Bangladeshi American activist, poet,
blogger and photographer with a passion for human rights work and progressive
politics. She lives in Oakland, CA, where she works with refugee and emerging API communities. 

She is actively involved with South Asian, Muslim and API organizations. She is also involved in Democratic politics and will serve as a delegate from CA's 13th Congressional District to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC this Fall.