This is a guest post by Gabriela D. Acosta. Gabriela is the community manager for the University of Southern California’s Online MSW programs and manages the social work blog for Social Work License Map. Originally from El Salvador, she is a proud feminist who is passionate about social justice, community organizing and leadership development. Connect with her on Twitter @Gabyacosta101
Some people find it difficult to understand why immigration reform would be considered a feminist issue, but feminism and other human rights efforts are not mutually exclusive. Feminism is about fighting against inequality, exploitation, violence and ignorance, and the fight for one marginalized group is not so different from another. Thus, feminists should come out in support for immigration reform.
Challenges Faced by Undocumented Immigrants
Undocumented immigrants in the United States face a number of challenges that jeopardize their well-being on a daily basis. They live in a world where they have little to no access to resources to report injustices and crimes committed against them without fear of arrest or deportation. Additionally, a slew of laws passed in some states during 2009 and 2010 now allow law enforcement to question individuals about their immigration status, forcing undocumented immigrants to live in even greater fear and in ever increasingly hostile environments.
The Plight of Undocumented Women
Hyper relevant to feminism is the plight of undocumented women, who face even greater challenges than their male counterparts. Much of what feminists have fought to attain for women over the years is completely devalued when it comes to undocumented women. Without the ability to access legal protection, undocumented women are frequently victims of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. They are confined to violent relationships without the resources or support necessary to help them get out. They are underpaid for their labor, forced to work in unsafe work environments and subjected to sexual harassment from employers. The system of support and protection that feminists have worked hard to create for women is completely undercut by the current immigration system in the United States — and that’s why immigration reform is a feminist issue.
Comprehensive Immigration Reform Now
The current immigration reform being proposed offers a guest worker program in which individuals wanting to work in the United States can obtain a temporary visa to work in “low-skilled” occupations. For many, that reform policy being reviewed by Congress still needs a lot of work. The United States needs a more comprehensive plan that provides access to public education, supports the unification of families, provides realistic pathways to legal citizenship and work, and gives undocumented immigrants immunity from deportation when they report abuses at work or in other areas of their lives.
What You Can Do
U.S. citizens need to take a stand on immigration reform and demand that their government puts a comprehensive plan into action. They need to be a voice for those who are too fearful of the repercussions to stand up and demand their own rights.
One way to voice your support is by contacting your state representatives and demanding that they support immigration reform. Beyond that, organizations like Reform Immigration for America and By Any Means Necessary offer their own suggestions about how to get involved, like becoming part of an online campaign to show your support or by attending a rally.
However you choose to get involved, do so today. Immigration reform shouldn’t be a concern of undocumented immigrants alone; it should be a cause championed by feminists everywhere.
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