Immigration Reform 2013: Why Women Need It, Too

During his second inaugural address, President Barack Obama urged for more immigration reform. Activists from organization Casa de Maryland called on Obama to enact immigration reform as well. This has lead groups that fight for the rights of immigrants to put out a call to the president to pass more comprehensive reform.

One component that is crucial to immigration reform is undocumented women’s rights. The intersection of women’s rights and immigrant rights is vital due to the lack of rights undocumented women have not only due to their undocumented status, but also their social standing as a woman.

Anti-immigration laws hurt undocumented women in abusive situations. An article published in Forbes explains that after revisions to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), undocumented women’s fears of deportation have increased, especially if they have to reveal their status to the police while reporting domestic abuse. One change that was proposed was eliminating U Visas, which protect undocumented victims of domestic violence by giving them temporary legal status and work eligibility in the United States for up to four years. A Huffington Post story about undocumented Latina abuse victims lists reasons why they are afraid of reporting abuse cases. Along with fear of their attacker, undocumented women are also fearful of language barriers, cultural and religious beliefs, lack of resources, and lack of awareness of the law.

Politicians perpetuate this fear by promoting xenophobic sentiments toward immigrant women. When answering a question about whether or not undocumented women should be afraid to come forward after being raped, Republican Massachusetts state Rep. Ryan Fattman said, “My thought is that if someone is here illegally, they should be afraid to come forward. If you do it the right way, you don't have to be concerned about these things.”

Because a woman is undocumented, she somehow does not deserve justice and is even believed to have deserved being punished for reporting violence committed against her because she broke the law.

More conservatives affirm that if someone is here “legally,” he/she does not have to fear persecution and only those who break the law should be afraid.

For those undocumented women who face double oppression, this is truly a life or death issue. For true change to happen, immigration and domestic violence reform must be actively pursued, because without one or the other, undocumented women cannot live safely in this country.