Recently, members of Congress met with immigrant activist leaders to have an open and frank discussion about problems facing the undocumented residents in the country. The primary topic related to how immigration policies affect women and children in particular. As women and children represent approximately 75 percent of immigrants in the United States, enacting family-based immigration reform is considered a must for those seeking policy changes; changes, that if made, could greatly affect undocumented women in California.
According to 2011 data, 51.1 percent of foreign immigrants living in the United States are women. Many have been able to obtain legal status, but numerous others live in fear of deportation and being separated from their children. Several of these women are brought into the country illegally by their husbands and are submitted to years of abuse, but feel they don’t have any options to flee their situation due to their immigration status. Approximately one in three women across the country will fall victim to domestic violence in their lifetime; the rate is believed to be even higher for undocumented women.
Along with domestic violence concerns, separating families and being able to provide for families, minus one parent, is another valid concern for those seeking legal status. Approximately 1,100 people get deported on a daily basis. Around one in five of those deported are parents. This leaves the remaining family, not only trying to pursue legal options in order to have their loved one returned, but also trying to provide a living wage to meet their needs.
While there is no fast and easy answer to immigration reform, open discussions like this one are a good place to start. Several policy changes were suggested at this meeting including expanding asylum protection and increasing the availability of visas for victims of domestic violence; both could provide assistance to women in abusive or life-threatening situations. While the fears of deportation and family separation are very valid concerns for undocumented women in California, legal avenues to seek proper documentation may be pursued to assist these women, whether their fight is to flee abusive relationships or keep their families intact.
Source: latinpost.com, "Immigration Reform 2014: Latina Women Share Immigration Horror Stories on Capitol Hill, Ask Congress to Consider Families", Scharon Harding, May 29, 2014