March Activists Call for Family-Friendly Immigration Policies, Labor Protections and Health Care Reforms for Nation’s Immigrant Women


 National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) joined together to call on the Obama administration and policy makers to create family-friendly immigration policies, health care reforms, and labor protections on behalf of immigrant women as part of Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women make up more than half of all immigrants. Data released by New American Media last spring highlights that immigrant women are increasingly taking on the role of primary breadwinner and family caretaker.
“Immigrant women are the backbone of our communities. They bring in additional incomes, making it more likely for their families to open small businesses, purchase homes and contribute to the American economy. Data also shows that immigrant women are often the ones to initiate the citizenship process for their families, said Miriam Yeung, Executive Director of NAPAWF.  “Unfortunately, current family immigration policies create tremendous backlogs that destroys the lives of women and families, particularly among Asian & Pacific Islanders immigrants. We can no longer afford the status quo.  Comprehensive Immigration Reform must include provisions that will reduce backlogs and reunite families.”
With wait times of up to 22 years, immigrant women are separated from their families and left to suffer in a maze of bureaucracy. Data shows that some of the longest wait times are for family members from China, India, and the Philippines. In fact, 6 out of the top 10 countries with the most immigration backlogs are in Asia and women make up the majority of those in backlogs.
“More than half of the immigrants who come to the U.S. seeking opportunity are women. Like all women, they struggle to create safe and healthy environments for their families. Yet immigrant women and their children are often denied even the most basic medical care,” said Silvia Henriquez, Executive Director of NLIRH. “NLIRH is calling on the Obama administration to live up to its promise of health care for all, and create provisions in Comprehensive Immigration Reform that provide access to health care, including comprehensive reproductive health services, to all immigrant women, children and families without regard to immigration status.”
53% of all immigrants are from Latin America. Women of color and immigrants are disproportionately poor and are less likely to be able to pay for reproductive health care out-of-pocket. Undocumented immigrants often work in jobs that fail to provide health care coverage or wages that would allow them to purchase private insurance for themselves or their families. Since 1996, federal law has prohibited legal permanent residents from accessing Medicaid for the first five years in the country. The current Health Care Reform bill before Congress fails to address health care needs for immigrants.
“Throughout history, immigrant women have been the cornerstones of this nation. They work in our hospitals, stores, and restaurants in hopes of building a better life for their families and future generations,” said Maria Robalino, Assistant to the Director of Immigration at SEIU. “ It’s time for policy makers to live up to the American promise and create worker protections that include immigrants.”
SEIU, along with NLIRH and NAPAWF, will be marching in today’s immigration march in Washington, D.C.  Each of these organizations is a member of The National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights (NCIWR), a coalition of 46 grassroots and advocacy organizations. NCIWR defends and promotes equality for all immigrant women and their families living and working in the United States.
To learn more about the coalition and about immigrant women, please visit

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