Quick hit: Where are the domestic workers in immigration reform?

Image Credit: Reuters/Cynthia Karam. Via.

So you’ve heard that the Senate proposed a bipartisan plan to reform immigration laws on Monday which proposes pathways to citizenship — as well as an increase in border patrol. While the question of how same sex couples will be addressed under the law is still up in the air, Bryce Covert for The Nation points out that there’s another group that was excluded from  the proposal’s fast tracked path to citizenship: domestic workers.

Covert writes that the language promising that farm workers who “have been performing very important and difficult work…while earning subsistence wages” and who play a role of “utmost importance in our nation” will earn a path to citizenship through a different process could easily be applied to domestic workers:

“Why were they excluded from the fast track yesterday? Part of it is likely because of the fact that this work is so invisible, taking place in private homes. Is it cynical to also wonder whether the fact that the workforce is 95 percent female has something to do with it? Whatever the reason, domestic workers also deserve national recognition of how vital their work is and to have access to an easier path to citizenship.”

Immigration is most definitely a feminist issue. As we’ve reported on this blog before, our nation’s blatantly discriminatory labor field reflects onto the domestic work sphere–a sphere that lacks even basic labor standards. The overwhelming majority of domestic workers are women, and workers of color make up 54% of the domestic workforce. 23 percent of workers are paid below the state minimum wage, and undocumented domestic workers are paid about 20% less than those who are U.S. citizens.

The path to immigration reform in this country will be long and hard, but domestic workers must not be lost in the process. To the extent that there exists a “fast track” to citizenship for workers who play a role of utmost importance and have historically received the short end of the stick, they deserve to be on it.

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is a writer and advocate focusing on race, gender, and sexual and reproductive rights. In addition to her work at Feministing, Lori is an Associate Director at Planned Parenthood Global. Lori has previously worked at the United Nations Foundation, the International Women’s Health Coalition, and Human Rights Watch, and has written for a host of print and digital properties including Rookie Magazine, The Grio, and the New York Times Magazine. She regularly appears on radio and television, and has spoken at college campuses across the U.S. about topics like the politics of black hair, transnational movement building, and the undercover feminism of Nicki Minaj. In 2014, she was named to The Root 100 list of the nation's most influential African Americans, and to the Forbes Magazine list of the "30 Under 30" successful people in media.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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