IWP believes that reforms in immigration laws and policies will be most effective in improving conditions of immigrant women and their families when they are grounded in an understanding of the challenges and circumstances confronted by many immigrant women in America. IWP addresses the following concerns in its work on immigration reform:
Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Reforms in immigration laws and policies will be most effective in improving conditions of immigrant women and their families when they are grounded in an understanding of the challenges and circumstances confronted by many immigrant women in America -- including their role in the informal labor economy, their risk of domestic abuse and employer exploitation, the consequences of separation from their children, and their inability to access critical protections and services. Legal Momentum is offering a set of principles to assist U.S. Congress in developing immigration and enforcement policy to redress the too-often invisible circumstances in which many immigrant women live.
Family Immigration System’s Impact on Women: Many more women than men come to the United States through the family-based immigration system. This puts them at a disadvantage as they must wait years due to immigration processing backlogs to obtain permission to work or solidify their permanent resident status apart from their husband. Women who migrate illegally are far more vulnerable to unsafe conditions and are particularly at risk for sexual assault. Once in the United States, many immigrant families need two incomes to support themselves and their children. Whether they are victims of extended backlogs or a system that precludes their employment while in the United States, immigrant women are left with no choice but to work in the underground economy without legal work authorization, increasing their vulnerability to exploitation from employers – who know that their employees will not report crimes against them – and dependency on their spouses, placing them at greater risk for domestic violence and sexual assault within the family. IWP focuses on this confluence of issues, and works to educate policymakers and advocates about the disparate impact of seemingly gender-neutral immigration laws on women.
Impact of Immigration Raids on Families: The separation of U.S. citizen children and immigrant parents due to immigration raids and detentions has emerged as a nation-wide issue. Detention can have a devastating impact on families, especially if immigrant parents are separated from their children. Some state departments of social services are increasingly willing to take U.S. born children from undocumented immigrant parents and place them in foster care, in violation of the undocumented immigrant parent's right to custody of their children. Once children are separated from their immigrant parents, it can be difficult for those parents to get their children back, as they attempt to navigate a legal system in a foreign language and very few resources. Legal Momentum advocates around the issue of separation of U.S. citizen children and immigrant parents. Most recently, Legal Momentum assisted with the recent Nebraska Supreme Court case, State v. Maria L., which dealt with this very issue. The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the constitutional right of immigrant parents to care for, have custody of, and control over their children, creating strong precedent for women and families in future custody disputes.
Humane Enforcement and Legal Protections for Separated Children Act (HELP Separated Children Act): When ICE or its surrogates apprehend a parent or caregiver there is no requirement that they be given the opportunity to make childcare arrangements. Furthermore, once they are detained, there is no requirement that parents or caregivers be informed of the location of their children, nor are there any procedures in place to inform children or dependents of the whereabouts of their parents and caregivers. Many parents and caregivers are deported and are unable to arrange to have their children join them in their home country. When children are left behind at any stage in the process they have a high likelihood of ending up in the foster care system. IWP, along with sister organizations, is advocating for the passage of the HELP Separated Children Act, which establishes guidelines to regulate immigration enforcement activities to ensure they do not compromise the well-being and unity of children and families. Learn more about IWP's work on the HELP Separated Children Act.
Immigration Enforcement and 287(g) programs: Increasingly, state and local law enforcement are taking on the roll of immigration enforcement agents, negatively impacting community safety and stability. At the heart of this problem is the federal 287(g) program, initially implemented under the Bush Administration and expanded during the Obama Administration, which creates partnerships between the Department of Homeland Security and local law enforcement agencies and authorizes local agencies to perform duties historically handled by trained immigration officers. Advocacy groups have criticized the arrangement for increasing racial profiling and targeting those immigrants with no criminal records or minor trafficking infractions for immigration enforcement. Many local law enforcement agencies have also taken issue with program for its lack of oversight, among other flaws. Unmentioned and overlooked are immigrant women -- including victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and exploitation -- who can no longer turn to their local police for protection. IWP works to raise awareness of the costs to communities and impact on immigrant women and families of 287(g) programs, and advocate for immigration enforcement solutions that do not co-opt and compromise local police resources. Learn more about the federal 287(g) program and its affect on immigrant women (PDF).