SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – Today, the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors adopted two resolutions as it celebrates Women’s History Month. The first calls for comprehensive immigration reform; and the second commends the Commission on the Status of Women for advancing the well-being of women and girls.
“The Commission on the Status of Women has been steadfast in its attention to and advocacy for issues that affect the lives of women and girls in our community,” said Supervisor Ken Yeager. “We commend them for their dedication and activism.”
The Commission on the Status of Women is concerned because at the national level, recently there has been a shift in immigration reform discussions to topics such as workforce needs, integration and citizenship, borders and interior enforcement, and state and local immigration developments. This shift moves the discussion away from the traditional family-based immigration criteria. County officials are signaling their support for a balanced immigration reform policy.
In Santa Clara County, more than half of our 1.8 million residents are immigrants and U.S. born children of immigrants.
“I appreciate the lens that the Commission on the Status of Women is bringing to this issue, especially during Women’s History Month,” said Supervisor Cindy Chavez, County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors. “And in light of recent legislation, we as a County must respond to the gaps in educational and legal services to young people seeking relief under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. We also must acknowledge and address the fact that immigrant communities are particularly vulnerable to fraudulent immigration services.”
The County has a very diverse ethnic population and is committed to policies that recognize and support that diversity. The Board’s Immigration Reform Resolution highlights the role of immigrant women in Santa Clara County, and advocates that Congress and the Administration adopt legislation and policies that do not lose the family-based criteria as it examines merit-based proposals for reform.
“The need for a comprehensive immigration reform bill that opens a fair and affordable path to citizenship and clearly defines immigration enforcement as a federal responsibility is essential,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese, Vice Chair of the Children, Senior and Families Committee. “If reform is going to successful over the long term, it has to strike a balance between workforce needs and family needs.”
In Santa Clara County, the proportion of women who are foreign born is 38 percent, compared to 13 percent of women nationwide.
"The Santa Clara County Commission on the Status of Women stands in solidarity with movements around the Country to bring a comprehensive immigration law to the finish line,” said Commission Chair Guadalupe Rodriguez. “Today we are fasting for 24 hours along with hundreds of women in over 20 states across the country who are fasting this month as part of the “Women’s Fast for Families” campaign to call on Congress to pass immigration reform that is fair to women and families.”
Over 5,000 women joined “Women’s Fast for Families” on March 8th, International Women Day, to begin a month-long fast for comprehensive immigration reform that benefits women, keeps families together and fulfills the American promise of equal opportunity for all.
According to estimates, immigrant women from developing countries represent 68 to 90 percent of the active labor force in Silicon Valley. Most lack health care coverage and often work in industries that are undervalued, underpaid, and without basic protections and benefits.
Although children of immigrants currently comprise 1 in 4 children in the United States and are the fastest growing segment of the child population, immigrant children have historically been disregarded and excluded from U.S. immigration policy decisions. Approximately a quarter of all deportations issued are for parents of children who are American citizens. In the United States, five million children live in mixed-legal status families and are at risk of being separated from a parent at any time.
“Currently, only a quarter of all employment visas are given to women as principal holders,” said Vice Chair Victoria Ramirez, Commission on the Status of Women. “Two-thirds of women in this visa category enter as dependents on their spouse’s visa, with no ability to work themselves. This prevents them from contributing to our economy, and makes them more vulnerable to an abusive partner, workplace harassment and exploitation. Let’s stop pretending that this problem does not exist. It is affecting too many children and families in our communities.”
The Commission on the Status of Women and the Office of Women’s Policy are advocating for comprehensive immigration reform, along with local community based organizations including:
SIREN, Asian Law Alliance, CJA, FIRE, SCU Law Center, PACT, Mexican Consulate,
Next Door, Maitri, Community Solutions, AACI, YWCA and Planned Parenthood.
Nationwide, the immigration debate continues, even though President Obama has highlighted it as one of his priorities. Discussion has focused on immigration reform and workforce needs, integration and citizenship, borders and interior enforcement, and state and local immigration developments. Almost always missing from the analysis is a gender lens. Although the shift from family-based policy to merit-based would be detrimental primarily to women and children, this nuance is often simply lost in the discussion.
In February 2013, when the County adopted a set of principles to guide the County’s advocacy for immigration reform, then County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors President Ken Yeager stated that “Immigration reform is critical to our County’s economic and cultural well-being.” Today’s resolution adds the gender lens to the principles outlined by the Board over a year ago.
In its advisory capacity to the Board of Supervisors, the Commission on the Status of Women has conducted focus groups for immigrant women related to domestic violence, and helped assess services for immigrant women in Family Court. Also, the Commission has advocated for language access with law enforcement so that now all jurisdictions have procedures that better meet the needs of immigrant women who call for help. CSW continues to highlight the roles and needs of our diverse County population in studies like “Breaking Cycles, Rebuilding Lives” and “The State of Women and Girls” report, in collaboration with the County of Santa Clara Office of Women’s Policy.
Posted: March 25, 2014