Immigrant women, youth and reform movement leaders gathered on Capitol Hill March 18 to lift their voices and demand an immigration policy that works for women and families and advances equality, health, education, family unity, and justice. The Rev. Mari Castellanos, the United Church of Christ's policy advocate for domestic issues, gave the invocation at the Rally for Immigrant Women, Youth & Families in Washington, D.C.
"Many, too many, of your children are denied the opportunities that the rest of us enjoy," Castellanos said. "Many, too many, of your daughters and sons live in fear and anxiety. Many, too many, of them are exploited, persecuted for the lack of a piece of paper. Your children are raising their voices again today in a thunderous cry for justice."
The rally, organized by the National Coalition for Immigrant Women's Rights, served as the highlight of the NCIWR March for Immigrant Women: A Month of Action for Citizenship, Families and Justice, which was a national effort to elevate voices in support of an inclusive immigration reform package that addresses the needs of women.
The five-hour event at Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church preceded a full hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on how comprehensive immigration reform should address the needs of women and families.
In addition to DREAMers and other advocates, speakers included Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, executive director/CEO of MomsRising; Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health; Miriam Yeung, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum; and Michelle Brané, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at the Women's Refugee Commission.
"As Congress and the White House move to reform our immigration laws, it is imperative that policymakers recognize the contribution of immigration women and address the needs of our communities," said González-Rojas. "Women's issues have been marginalized in previous debates and discussions around immigration reform."
The NCIWR is the leading national collaboration to specifically focus on women and gender issues in the public discourse on immigration. The coalition represents more than 80 grassroots and advocacy organizations.
The United Church of Christ has a long history of affirming the dignity of immigrants and working for comprehensive U.S. immigration policy. Since 1995, General Synod – the main deliberative body of the UCC – has repeatedly called for a fair and human approach to U.S. immigration policy that protects families and respects the humanity of our immigrant brothers and sisters.