Women Need Us at Sunday's Immigration Rally

Friday, March 19, 2010

Anna Burger says that the major rally in Washington, D.C., this Sunday for immigration reform gives us a chance to stand up for the needs of immigrant women at the backbone of our economy.

Editor's Note: The following is a commentary. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily the views of Women's eNews.

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Anna Burger(WOMENSENEWS)--Women, particularly women from other countries, are the hidden steel in the spine of our local economies.

All over this nation, we rely on the people who provide safe, loving, educational environments to our children; who maintain office buildings owned by some of the richest companies and inhabited by the wealthiest CEOs in the world; who take care of people too sick to leave their homes; and who provide personal care to seniors, the chronically ill and people living with disabilities.

These workers, part of a growing, service-sector work force, hold critical jobs that ultimately help support other working women and men and help keep entire communities healthy and whole.

The people we rely on for these services are predominantly female, immigrant and underpaid.

While the White House and Congress debate even taking up the issue of comprehensive immigration reform, women continue to suffer under an outdated immigration system that drives down wages, encourages workplace abuses and breeds divisions in our workplaces and communities--which ultimately hurt the entire nation.

It's time to tell the story of comprehensive immigration reform through the lives of these women.

Immigrant Women's Stories

Just this week, we learned the stories of three Mexican women employed on temporary worker visas at a seafood processing company in North Carolina. Solely because of their gender, the women were restricted to certain types of "women's" work at the plant, underpaid, not reimbursed for their travel costs and then wrongfully fired. The company's behavior is currently at the center of a lawsuit being taken up by the American Civil Liberties Union.

These stories aren't new. In other cases, undocumented female workers have faced sexual intimidation, human trafficking, brutal physical battery and threats of deportation and separation from their families.

In 2008, after a massive, immigration raid at a meatpacking plant in Iowa, dozens of women reported being locked in the plant for work shifts that sometimes started at 8 a.m. and ended at 2 a.m. (Women's eNews followed up on this situation with a story in December and found that women awaiting to testify in connection with charges that had been dismissed were still wearing painful electronic monitoring devices on their ankles. A complete package of Women's eNews stories about the experiences of female immigrants can be found in its Web site's special series Dynamic Diaspora.)

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Dynamic Diaspora: Women and Immigration

Dynamic Diaspora: Women and Immigration