I was arrested on Thursday, September 12, 2013, in Washington, D.C., with 104 other women, partly because I am a mother and grandmother. I have that unwavering instinct that mothers possess to want to protect our children, work to put food on the table and do what's necessary to ensure our children have a better life and future. Yet, millions of women are being punished by a failed immigration system for being protective, loving and brave - women who make enormous contributions and sacrifices to keep their families strong and united.
In a symbolic gesture, my act of civil disobedience was meant to support and honor the countless acts of courage that immigrant women engage in every day out of love for their families and communities. As one of hundreds of women immigrants and community leaders from across the country rallying on the 12th, I demanded that the U. S. House of Representatives take action on comprehensive immigration reform NOW that includes a pathway to citizenship, keeps families together, protects survivors of violence and workplace abuse, and recognizes women's work inside and out of the home.
It's time that lawmakers in Washington, D.C. take action to fix our broken immigration system and pass reform that is fair to women and families.
While the House of Representatives sits on the sidelines, refusing to pass common sense reform, families are being torn apart. 200, 000 parents have been forced to leave a child behind because of unjust deportations.
Sitting arm in arm with my sisters on this day, singing "We Shall Not Be Moved," was powerful and inspirational. And we represented countless others unable to make this journey. Women like Julie Nguyen, a 31-year-old grad student studying social work at Georgia State University. Nguyen and her family migrated to this country from Vietnam in 1986. She understands how the current broken process discriminates against immigrant women making them more susceptible to exploitation and abuse. "The fear of being deported and possibly separated from their family forces women to remain silent while they tolerate sweatshop working conditions and sexual harassment in the workplace," says Nguyen.
Women and children have the most to lose if Congress fails to act -- 75 percent of all immigrants to the U.S. are women and children. Of the 20 million women immigrants, 5.6 million have been left out of the path to citizenship. De Ana Jimenez is Native American Muscogee Creek, a single mother of three and a survivor of domestic violence. She knows firsthand the struggles that come with supporting a family. "I understand the importance of safety, self-sufficiency and doing whatever it takes to make sure that our children grow up with the opportunity of a better future," says Jimenez, a board member and active leader of 9to5 Colorado.
Immigrant women and their families need a path to citizenship that recognizes their contributions to our communities and our economy, reunites families, ensures higher education access for immigrant students, protects the rights and dignity of workers, and integrates immigrants into all aspects of community life. Immigrant women should have the opportunity to contribute their skills and talents fully to our country and reach their full potential. We will all benefit from an immigration process that leads to safe communities, healthy children and a strong economy.
Will Congress have the courage to do what's right for our families, communities, economy and country? Based on philosopher Lao Tzu, who said "From caring comes courage," the answer should be a simple one. Yes, if lawmakers truly care about strong families and communities, then there is hope for our nation and the children who depend on their courageous mothers.