Declaration on Immigrant Rights

(Strong statement on immigrant rights.  Waiting for NC NOW board approval.)

We, the members of the North Carolina chapters of the National Organization for Women, recognize the intrinsic value of immigrants, both documented and undocumented, to the overall strength of our local communities. Their contribution as laborers, taxpayers, and entrepreneurs positively affects the growth of our economy. More importantly, the diversity of languages, traditions, beliefs and experiences of our immigrant communities brings new depths of cultural identity into the beautiful social fabric of North Carolina. NC NOW declares that our fight to ensure women’s rights and gender equality is inherently connected to the rights of immigrant women, their children, and families. We argue that policies and actions that marginalize immigrant women and threaten their security is a violation of their human rights and destructive to our communities.

NC NOW supports fair, comprehensive immigration reform legislation that includes:

  • A legalization program that will allow undocumented immigrants living in the United States to apply for residency. This process should be free of unreasonable fines and penalties, and should not force them to leave a job or family in order to return to one’s native country for the purposes of being issued a re-entry visa. This program should include proof of residency in the US, not proof of work history as most immigrant women work in the domestic industry, home care facilities, or are stay at home mothers.
  • A Temporary/Guest Workers Permit program for temporary workers and agricultural workers whose permits would lead them to a path for permanent residency. Guest workers should have a path to citizenship, should they desire it, and not be indentured to their employers. Work visas are predominantly given to men, leaving women dependent on their spouses. Reforming work visa programs should allow mothers/wives and their children to be together as a family.
  • Enforcement of existing federal labor laws for all workers, including domestic workers, most of whom are female. Domestic service is a category of work that must be included in labor standards afforded to other workers. Immigrant workers (documented and undocumented) must be protected from exploitation, servitude and hostile working conditions.
  • Keeping families together so that parents, children, or families are not separated by deportation or detention. Since 2012, more than 400,000 immigrants have been deported. Many are parents of US –born children. Deportations and long-term detentions lead to an increase in foster care for children. Reform must expedite family based sponsorships.
  • Access to adequate health care because women are the primary care-takers of households. Currently, immigrant women must wait five years to receive public health services or provide their sponsor’s income, which makes them ineligible for services. Immigrant women need access to routine health care, prenatal care and emergency care.
  • Access to reproductive health care coverage must be provided to all immigrant women regardless of legal and economic status. This includes comprehensive sex and sexuality education, access to family planning, birth control and emergency contraception. Immigrant women should also be entitled to linguistically/culturally competent information about reproductive health.
    Adoption of the Dream Act, which provides “conditional” permanent residency to qualified undocumented immigrants who enroll in college or serve in the military. After completion of at least two years of college or military service, the conditional status could be converted to full-fledged permanent resident status, which is a prerequisite for obtaining U.S. citizenship.
  • Ending law enforcement and federal immigration contracts that give incentives for the criminalization of undocumented immigrants (i.e., Secure Communities and 287g programs)

In lieu of adequate federal immigration reform, NC NOW supports:

  • Programs that support unaccompanied minors, their mothers and sponsors who are residing in North Carolina awaiting Immigration Court dates.
  • Municipal Identification programs that that could help undocumented immigrants do such things as prove their identity during minor traffic stops or serve as volunteers in public schools attended by their children.
  • Expansion of in-state tuition for all students who meet longevity residency requirements and graduate from a NC high school.
    Access to driving privileges for all people living in North Carolina, regardless of immigration status.
  • An end to child labor in North Carolina’s agricultural industry and heightened safety standards for migrant workers who are exposed to chemicals and pesticides used in farming.
  • An end to immigrant exploitation through wage theft and notary fraud.
    Support for language access programs for immigrant students in North Carolina schools.
  • The right to access housing that is safe, sanitary, and affordable.
  • Access to fair criminal justice. Immigrant women face high levels of violence and exploitation. These women should have access to safety via law enforcement without the fear of being detained or arrested for being a victim.

By Louise Clarke, President of Charlotte NOW.  10/3/14

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