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As the all-male "Gang of Eight" prepares to release a bill in the coming weeks, it becomes even more essential that women speak out loud and clear so that our priorities are addressed in any reform legislation.
That is why, a few weeks ago, Yasmin and a dozen other women from Washington State joined hundreds more in Washington, D.C. The Washington delegation included luminaries like Elaine Rose, CEO of Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and a former Assistant Attorney General for former Governor Chris Gregoire.
"Immigration reform became so much more real for me,” Elaine told me after the trip. “I had never thought of immigration reform as a women's issue. It was also eye-opening to realize the link between a woman's immigrant status and her lack of access to health care."
The trip made “the urgency of immigration reform real” for Elaine, who has begun to think about how to build bridges between immigrant women and her work at Planned Parenthood Votes.
Monica Mendoza, a freshman at University of Washington, also attended the We Belong Together launch in DC. Monica's career as an activist began in high school when she worked on immigration reform through the Northwest Youth Alliance. She went on to spearhead a legislative directive at the University of Washington around the state's DREAM Act. Most recently, she's been working with OneAmerica.
Monica's recent D.C. experience "opened my eyes," she said. "Every movement — especially immigration reform — has all men at the forefront. I learned how immigration IS a women’s issue, that it’s harder for women to earn citizenship. I feel like I can go out and talk about immigration as a women’s issue now.”
For these Washington women, and for the many more across the country who joined them in D.C., this is a critical moment for fostering a new understanding of immigration as a women’s issue. The shift has the potential to engage a whole new group of people in the push for immigration reform.
In a recent national poll for We Belong Together, conducted with 800 women, Lake Research Partners tested immigtration messages tailored specifically for women. This was the first such gender-specific messaging around immigration. The best-testing messages were the ones that connected the need for immigration reform to the values of America as a land of opportunity for women and girls. By the end of the 15-minute survey, a stunning 30 percent of the women who started out with mixed views on immigrants shifted to positive views. And using a woman’s voice to deliver the messages was more persuasive.
The results underscore how important it is for women to educate women about why immigration is an issue they should care about.
“The women I’ve talked to since coming back have been dramatically moved by talking about immigration reform from this perspective,” Yasmin said. “It’s like the emotional and personal piece wasn’t there before. But now, they get it. They identify with the integral role that immigrant women, like all women, play. We have an amazing opportunity to get women to use their votes and their voices to move immigration reform.”
Let’s put women back in the picture on this important issue and engage them in fighting for reform that treats women fairly.
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