Women’s Groups Not Quitting on Immigration Reform

Even though legislation is dead in Congress, a coalition of groups isn't throwing in the towel

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A coalition of women’s organizations announced Wednesday they will continue pushing House Republican leaders to vote on immigration reform this year, even as legislation before Congress is effectively dead.

The coalition is led by the pro-reform group We Belong Together, and it includes union, women, and community groups. The groups plan to use protest fasting and targeted attacks within congressional districts starting in March to mobilize women around the idea that immigration policy, at its core, has its greatest impact on women, children and families. Though they have yet to specify which members of Congress will face the most pressure, organizers said they will hold up GOP inaction as proof that Republicans are often “anti-women, anti-black and brown, and anti-family.”

“The timeline of [immigration reform] cannot be dictated by a small group of people,” Pramila Jayapal of We Belong Together told reporters on a conference call. “If Republican leadership really looks at the cost of not moving immigration reform forward and also the cost for their base, they’ll realize that a lack of action would continue to play into the frame.”

The Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill last year, and while Republicans signaled earlier this year that they might move on smaller piecemeal reform measures, House Speaker John Boehner, under pressure from conservatives, threw in the towel earlier this month. Boehner said his members don’t trust that Obama, who has overseen a record number of deportations, to appropriately enforce any new immigration law.

“The American people, including many of my members, don’t trust that the reform that we’re talking about will be implemented as it was intended to be,” Boehner said at the time.

Organizers said about 75 percent of immigrants in the United States are women and children. A woman on the call who works with a pro-immigrant community group in Los Angeles said she lives in fear that her family will be separated every day because of existing law. “Even though I can’t vote I’m educating other people in my community about the importance of voting,” said María Galván, an undocumented immigrant and mother of two. “We must participate in this fight. Together we will make immigration reform with path to citizenship a reality.”

California Democratic Rep. Judy Chu said that if the existing reform bill were put to a vote, it would pass the House. She called on women’s groups to work together like they did in the successful push to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

“Efforts like these keep the pressure on,” Chu said. “It is public pressure that can change things around.”