NOW Rallies with Immigrant Groups to Block "Cruel" Reform
NOW Executive Vice President Olga Vives speaks at a rally in front of the U.S. Capitol on April 24.
by Campbell Roth, Publications Coordinator
Millions of immigrants and proponents of immigrant rights took to the streets in April and May to protest attempts by Congress to "reform" current immigration laws with cruel and punitive proposals. NOW alerted members to oppose the bills as they emerged from committees in both the House and the Senate, saying the arguments are racist and isolationist and fail to recognize the humanity and value of immigrant workers and families who contribute to our nation's economy and society.
NOW Executive Vice President Olga Vives, who emigrated from Cuba in 1961 has been an active participant in the debate and spoke at rallies held in Washington, D.C. and New York City this spring.
"In the past few decades, particularly since 1996, the United States has embraced immigration policies that make it harder for an undocumented worker to achieve legal status in the United States, Vives said. "It is clear that today, politicians seek to punish the undocumented, rather than provide a fair path to residency and citizenship for those living and working in the United States. Current proposals emphasize closing the borders and deporting millions of individuals, treating them as criminals rather than people who are in the U.S. to work and support their families."
NOW finds the debate, as framed by the Republican leadership, is lacking the fairness and sensitivity necessary to deal with the plight of millions whose lives (and the lives of their families) depend on the work they do in the U.S.
Immigration affects women deeply, as more than half of the almost 12 million undocumented immigrants are women and children. In the U.S., immigrant women are among the most vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and human rights violations. They face particular challenges due to inequalities between men and women but also due to the additional responsibilities of family and home. In the workplace, immigrant women may suffer gender discrimination as well as prejudice based on their accent, ethnicity or country of birth. Some women come to the U.S. to be domestic workers or caregivers, working for substandard wages; many leave their own children behind to be raised by relatives, while they work in the U.S. to raise their families out of poverty. Providing a way for these women to become legal workers in the United States would improve their lives (and their families') through better paying jobs with benefits and eventual family reunification.
"George W. Bush and the radical right are using immigration as a 'wedge issue' for the 2006 mid-term elections, much like abortion and same-sex marriage were used in the 2000 and 2004 elections," Vives said. This time, the proponents of these unfair and cruel immigration bills seek to exploit the threat of "terrorism" to erect walls to the South even though there is no evidence that terrorists have even attempted to come through the Mexican border. They have been either born and raised in the U.S. (Timothy McVeigh) or have flown into the country legally (the 9/11 attackers).
A fair and just immigration reform would include a path to permanent residency and citizenship, during a period of amnesty, and the opportunity for undocumented immigrants to seek legal status. Also, immigration quotas should be revised to more even-handedly control the immigration flow from Mexico and Latin America.
And lastly, the United States needs to look at the negative impact of trade agreements such as NAFTA and CAFTA, as well as policies of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which by many accounts have neither created economic growth nor jobs south of the border, but rather have exacerbated the poverty in those countries and increased the wealth of the multi-nationals those agreements benefit.
"Our call is for fair reform that doesn't make felons out of undocumented immigrants and the people and institutions that provide services to them - reform that doesn't build walls or promote hatred, vigilante tactics and servitude. Instead, it must address economic policies that exacerbate the poverty in other countries, and value the work and contributions of immigrants working and raising families here," Vives said. "The majority of immigrants come to this country in search of a better life, in search of an opportunity to work and prosper. This has been the story of immigration in the United States and continues to be. This country was built on the backs of immigrants from all over the world, including those coming from our neighbors to the South. As we live and contribute to this society and as people of the continent, we embrace the slogan "We ARE America."
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