Immigrant women and allies risk arrest to demand humane immigration reform

Leisha Carrasquillo is a U.S. citizen, but her husband is an undocumented immigrant from Honduras. In June, her husband was detained and has been in ICE custody since, having devastating effects on her health and her family. Today, she is prepared to take part in an act of civil disobedience to demand an immigration reform that takes into account the needs of women and families.

In a historic action, today approximately 100 women will risk arrest by blockading the intersection outside the House of Representatives to send a message: inaction on comprehensive immigration reform that treats women and families humanely is unacceptable. The action is being organized through We Belong Together, a national campaign to bring forward the priorities of women in immigration reform. Their priorities include: a clear path to citizenship; a system that keeps families together and upholds the family immigration system; protects survivors of violence; honors women’s work inside and outside the home; and is not driven by enforcement. Today’s act of civil disobedience is expected to include the largest ever number of undocumented women to date to willingly risk arrest, and will also include allies from organizations advocating for reproductive justice, racial justice, LGBT people, and domestic workers, among many others.

For Leisha, this is about her family. It’s about being reunited with her husband; about being able to take care of her failing health while working overtime to support her family; about her son focusing on school instead of looking for a job to help her; about just being able to keep her family together. “How our family is breaking apart is…it’s amazing,” Leisha said. “How in two months, our family has changed so much.” 

The Senate passed a version of the comprehensive immigration reform bill at the end of June that ranges from fairly tepid to pretty bad on some of these issues – while the bill includes a path to citizenship, it is very heavy on enforcement and militarization. The House did not take up the bill in July, and is just returning from August recess this week.  The bill, if taken up, is widely expected to become more enforcement-heavy and restrictive in the House.

Leisha and her family need an immigration reform that accounts for them. They need a reform that acknowledges that as it stands right now, Leisha said, people are “scared to drive out the road to the pharmacy to get their children medication, you know? They’re scared to go to the grocery store to get food for their kids, they’re scared every morning to go to work so they can provide for their family.” Leisha and those who are risking arrest and protesting with her want to send a message: it’s time for immigration reform that accounts for the needs of women and families.

“Stop separating families, and give women the right to come out of the shadows. Let them come out to the light.”

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Verónica Bayetti Flores has spent the last years of her life living and breathing reproductive justice. She has led national policy and movement building work on the intersections of immigrants' rights, health care access, young parenthood, and LGBTQ liberation, and has worked to increase access to contraception and abortion, fought for paid sick leave, and demanded access to safe public space for queer youth of color. In 2008 Verónica obtained her Master’s degree in the Sexuality and Health program at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. She loves cooking, making art, listening to music, and thinking about the ways art forms traditionally seen as feminine are valued and devalued. In addition to writing for Feministing, she is currently spending most of her time doing policy work to reduce the harms of LGBTQ youth of color's interactions with the police and making sure abortion care is accessible to all regardless of their income.

Verónica is a queer immigrant writer, activist, and rabble-rouser.

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