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Giselle Fernandez Headshot

Immigration Reform -- Women and Mothers Must Weigh in

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Women and families are at the core of this crisis yet no woman, or Latina for that matter, in a decision making role is at the table, in the Gang of Eight or otherwise. The omission is glaring. We as a nation must look at this crisis with a new lens--- through the eyes of these children not the politicized diatribe that has hijacked this debate for too long.

Our hearts break over images of these kids in cages in Texas and California, but there are thousands of kids you don't see who have been detained behind bars in INS detentions centers across the country for years. They are as young as five, ten and into their teens, growing up in cells without access to lawyers or representation. There are no laws in place to ensure their advocacy. Many of these kids feet don't even hit the floor when in court. They are too small.

While this alarming onslaught has put our immigration crisis on steroids, it has been at crisis levels for years - just not in full view as it is now.

When record deportations continually break up families, it's the children left suddenly alone across this nation who suffer most.

For too long the diatribe has commandeered all focus on the threat to border security, when most undocumented in this country didn't sneak across the desert or the Rio Grande, their papers expired in a broken system that needs fixing. They say Latino immigrants are an economic burden, when it's proven the immigrant work force is the engine of this economy and the promise of the future.

At least this border crisis thrusts all into full view, laying out how desperate the need is to reform this broken system, especially with children at its epicenter.

I can only see this unfolding tragedy from the perspective of a mother. I adopted my child from Guatemala 8 years ago before their adoption program was shut down due to corruption and baby selling. It was dangerous to travel there because of drug cartels, gangs and traffickers.

I see my baby girl in the face of every child detained at our border. I hurt for the mothers, the women who make up the core of these arrivals. I understand what drove them here. I can't imagine the peril they faced on their journey or the uncertainty they now live.

No matter the lethal narrative characterizing these families as leaches and opportunists, a mother's gut knows this can't be driven by economics alone. This onslaught is fueled by a mother's ferocity to save her babies. Can you imagine what it would take to send your child off to another land knowing full well the perils of such a journey. The threat at home must be profound for any mother to take such action.

America is the biggest consumer of the drugs and trafficking in Central America which is now ripping apart their world and driving families to our gates. We are complicit in this tragedy. We can't absorb all these immigrants, but we can have a policy representative of the values and ideals of this great nation to receive and process their dreams and desperation in a careful, organized and compassionate way.

We can't disassociate ourselves from "them" or dehumanize "them" any longer. We are intertwined. We mothers in America entrust immigrant mothers to care for our kids, clean our homes, pick our vegetables and serve our meals, while their kids are left alone. We experience their sacrifice daily and benefit through their service.

Surely witnessing children in crisis on our borders will awaken a new understanding. You would think it would fuel immediate action on reform at last. But even the mass killing of innocent 6 year olds at Sandy Hook didn't budge the political lock on gun control either. There were not enough mothers at that table clearly.

Let this serve as a clarion call to women of both parties. We know when children are at risk, motherhood transcends the politics. We are called on now to raise our voices.

We must elevate this discussion. A humanitarian crisis with children at the core, is playing out before us and we must weigh in.

There are 75 million mothers in the U.S., all of whom influence 85 percent of household purchases. That is 2.1 trillion in annual spending. Surely that is enough to sway votes if we engage.

I ask women and mothers of all parties to join forces in solidarity. Raise your voices to force the passage of responsible Immigration Reform now. Leverage your buying power. Organize. Rally. Hold your legislators responsible. Break this deadlock.

We are the ones who must re-frame this debate. The lives of women, children and families hang in the balance. We have been left out of this conversation too long.