As debate of S.744 continues on the Senate floor, the makeup and effectiveness of immigration reform continues to be a very hot topic on Capitol Hill. Although this bill has overcome countless speed bumps, both troubling amendments and a not so welcoming House has created an uneasy stir amongst supporters. Among these supporters are the members of the We Belong Together campaign. This campaign is comprised of a group of women and men who with a collective voice are calling for the enactment and defense of policies that ensure that immigrant women will benefit from immigration reform. This week, with immigration reform being at its most crucial juncture since 2006, I joined the We Belong Together in one of the most pure and simple rights granted to us: the right to petition our government.
On Tuesday, 150 supporters and myself marched into forty different congressional offices, with the goal of informing congressional offices in both the House of Representatives and the Senate of the important role that immigrant women play in their homes, their communities, and their countries. We tipped our caps to supporters, shamed the opposition, and had productive and meaningful discussions with staffers and in some cases representatives themselves.
The importance of lobbying trips like Tuesday’s is immeasurable. According to an article recently posted on Politico, women and children make up for roughly 75% of all immigration to the United States, with women also accounting for a combined 51% of undocumented persons migrating to America. The immigration bill currently on the floor has done a great job of creating a tough but not overwhelming path to citizenship for all immigrants, as well as a strong family reunification clause that allows families to stay together through a broader “family visa system”. It has also welcomed with open arms sufferers of human trafficking or abuse to receive legal status in order to remove victims from a bad environment.
However, there is still so much to do. In addition to lobbying Congress to keep rebuffing attempts to amend and weaken the immigration reform, there is still a virtually non-existent discussion of reform in the House of Representatives. While the Senate bill has taken tremendous leaps in reform for all immigrants, the bill needs to overcome a partisan House and that may lead to its demise. Here enters the We Belong Together campaign, as well as the countless groups that supported the cause by showing up on Tuesday. If I learned anything from my time lobbying with these amazing women it would be that there is genuine power in constituents voicing their opinion, a fact that we as citizens often overlook.
I am positive that our efforts made a difference, and I encourage anyone interested to support the cause. It may be as simple as calling your local elected official, but if interested you can find out more about the We Belong Together campaign, and upcoming lobbying events on their website.
-Paul Stern Immigrant/Worker’s Rights Intern