By Alicia Criado, Policy Associate, Economic and Employment Policy Project, NCLR
No woman should have to endure abusive or exploitative situations at home or in the workplace because of a broken immigration system. Under current law, more than five million undocumented women in the United States face the real threat of silently suffering abuse in their homes and workplaces because of their immigration status. On June 18, 2013, We Belong Together and the Women’s Refugee Commission hosted a congressional staff briefing titled “Women and Immigration Reform: A Commitment to Women, Children, and Families.” The event helped ensure that legal protection for immigrant woman, who compose 51% of all immigrants in the United States, are considered and defended throughout the immigration reform debate.
Pramila Jayapal, Co-Chair of We Belong Together, moderated the panel, which featured Emily Butera, Senior Program Officer, Women’s Refugee Commission; Representative Suzan DelBene (D–WA); and two female undocumented immigrant workers. Adelaide, one of the workers, is a mother of two from Mozambique who was brought to the United States in 2008 to work full time in the home of a diplomat. Upon arrival, her employer took away her passport and forced her to work seven days a week from 7:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m., all for $100 per month. She hopes that the Senate immigration bill (S. 744) will enhance protections for immigrant women, such as by making U visas available for a broader range of violations like the workplace abuse and exploitation she experienced. Currently, 10,000 U visas are given annually to victims of certain crimes, providing temporary legal status and work eligibility in the United States for up to four years.