The United States is a nation of immigrants. Immigrants have been an essential part of American society since our country’s inception. According to the 2000 Census, there are more than 30 million immigrants in the U.S., equaling 11 percent of the population. One in five children is the child of an immigrant.
These immigrants and their children contribute to our communities, economy and our culture. The United States is one of the most diverse nations today, thanks to the millions of immigrants who have enriched our culture and contributed to our economic growth.
The YWCA USA calls for passage of broad and humane national immigration reform legislation that will provide a clear roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million aspiring Americans, including DREAMers, and makes it possible for them to fully integrate into the nation’s social and economic fabric, with all of the rights and responsibilities entailed in full integration.
Citizenship should ensure that everyone living in the U.S. has access to economic supports, affordable health care, workers’ rights, and the freedom to live free from the fear of detention and deportation. Specifically, the YWCA urges Congress to enact national immigration reform legislation that includes:
- A Roadmap to Citizenship for the 11 million Aspiring Americans. Immigration reform must include a clear and easily navigated road to full citizenship for those currently living under threat of deportation, as well as for those seeking to reunite with their families.
- Access to Quality Health Care and Economic Supports, with No Waiting Periods. Immigration reform must include immediate access to quality health care and economic supports. Waiting periods for health care were rejected in the debate on the Affordable Care Act and were removed for children and pregnant women in the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act. Any health care or other safety-net services that are currently available, regardless of immigration status, must remain available to those who need them.
- The DREAM Act. Immigration reform must include a system to allow those who were brought to the country as children, known as DREAMers (because of the 2001 Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act), to begin the citizenship application process immediately. Any provisions pertaining specifically to legalization for DREAMers should allow people who are currently in school to qualify and not be restricted by age or education level; give states more freedom to offer in-state tuition; limit any criminal or conduct bars; and, clarify that the often harsh immigration consequences for certain conduct do not apply to minors.
- Protections for Trafficked Women and Immigrant Women who are Victims of Sexual or Domestic Violence. Immigration reform must include protections for immigrant women who are victims of sexual abuse, domestic violence and trafficking. Detained immigrant women and young girls are at higher risk for experiencing sexual assault and rape, and they must have access to resources and protections to prevent such incidences. U-Visas for immigrant victims of violence should be included as a part of immigration reform. In 2000, advocates in the field recognized that, while VAWA provided critical protections for victims of domestic and sexual violence, immigrant victims were reluctant to speak up due to a fear of deportation or retaliation. U-Visas provide a safe haven for immigrant victims by allowing them to reach out for help and creating a path to citizenship independently of their abusers.
Essential Principles For Reform:
- Fighting for citizenship for the 11 million “Americans in waiting,” as well as for family unity, fulfilled dreams, full and equal rights and fairness for all workers.
- Securing the broadest possible legalization with a path to citizenship
- Preserving and working to advance family reunification
- Protecting the rights and working conditions of all workers
- Blocking enforcement measures that violate due process
- According responsibilities and rights required for full integration into American society