Harnessing Love’s Power
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Day 13: We Belong Together: Women Working for Fair Immigration Reform

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Jan 30, 2014

Today is Day 13 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to learn more about domestic workers and immigration reform through the We Belong Together coalition. Click here for resources and ways to take action to help pass compassionate immigration reform this year! Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.

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My name is Maria Huerta.  I am the proud mother of four children and an immigrant who arrived in this country 17 years ago.  I’m also a National Organizer at the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA.)  Together with domestic workers and diverse allies around the country, we are fighting for immigration reform that will be inclusive and fair for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country, and especially for immigrant women domestic workers.

For ten years, I was a domestic worker, cleaning housing and caring for children and adults.  In my last job as a caregiver, I was hired to take care of my elderly neighbor.  For the first few months, I took care of her for 12 hours a day, six days a week.  I helped her with her personal care, cooked for her, and cleaned the house.  For this work, I earned $1,000 per month.  After five months, her two daughters arrived to live with her.  I was then expected to care for her 24 hours a day, and also to tend to the needs of her daughters.  Although there was an extra bedroom, once her daughters arrived I was forced to sleep in an old armchair in the living room.  I wasn’t allowed to take breaks or go visit my family, who lived next door.  I was rarely able to sleep through the night, since I would have to check on the woman I cared for.  My workload had doubled, but my salary had not.  I was still earning $1,000 per month, which amounted to less than two dollars per hour.  As an immigrant woman, I thought I had no rights, and thought that I had no chance of speaking out about my situation.

My story is not unique.  As an organizer, I hear stories on a daily basis of immigrant women domestic workers who have been discriminated against and abused as a result of their immigration status. More than three quarters of all domestic workers in this country are immigrants, and half of that number are undocumented.  For over 75 years, domestic workers have been excluded from some of the country’s most basic labor protections.  As domestic workers, we work in the shadows, and undocumented workers are doubly hidden.  We continue to live in a society where our work isn’t valued or recognized as labor that is as important as any other, but we know our work is valuable. The work of immigrant women makes possible all of the other work in this country.  We care for the things that are most precious to our employers: their homes, children and loved ones.  We make it possible for our employers to achieve their own personal and professional goals, and our work is essential but rarely recognized.

Though women and children make up ¾ of all immigrants to this country, immigration laws have traditionally excluded us and made us vulnerable.  While immigrant women make the homes, schools, communities and economy of this country stronger, we still are often afraid to speak up about violence and exercise our rights and our children live with the fear that they will lose a parent to deportation.  For millions of immigrant women workers, the need for comprehensive immigration reform is urgent.  We need to be able to live without fear, keep our families together, and work with dignity and respect.

The abuse that I faced as an immigrant domestic worker gave me strength and desire to fight for changes on behalf of my community.  As National Organizer with the National Domestic Workers Alliance, I now have the opportunity to work with domestic workers, immigrant women and women from all walks of life for changes that will benefit us all.  Our We Belong Together campaign is showing that immigration is a women’s issue, and that women’s groups, faith groups and immigrant rights organizations working together can tip the balance in favor of immigration policies that will be fair and inclusive for all, especially women and children.

This country is our home, and is the place that we contribute to in countless ways every day.   We are fighting so that the contributions of domestic workers and millions of other immigrants will be seen and valued.  We invite you to join us, and together we will make our communities and this country stronger than ever.

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Mi nombre María Huerta. Llegué a este país hace 17 años. Soy una mujer inmigrante y madre orgullosa de cuatro hijos.  También soy Organizadora Nacional en la Alianza Nacional de Trabajadoras del Hogar.  Junto con trabajadoras del hogar y en colaboración con diversos aliados en todas partes del país, estamos luchando por una reforma migratoria que sea justa para todos los 11 millones y especialmente para las trabajadoras del hogar.

Durante diez años fui trabajadora del hogar, limpiando casas, cuidando niños y pacientes. En mi último trabajo como cuidadora me contrataron para cuidar a mi vecina.  Los primeros meses la cuidaba 12 horas al día, seis días a la semana. La tenía que cuidar a ella, cocinar y mantener la casa limpia. Ganaba $1,000 al mes. Después de cinco meses llegaron a vivir dos de sus hijas con ella. Empecé a cuidar a mi vecina las 24 horas y aparte tenía que atender a sus dos hijas. Aunque tenían un cuarto extra para mi, después de que llegaron sus hijas, a mi me tocaba dormir en un sillón viejo en la sala. No me permitían tomar descansos para ir a ver a mi familia, que vivíamos al otro lado de con mi vecina. En las noches me interrumpían en varias ocasiones. Mi trabajo se triplicó pero mi salario no, seguía ganando los $1,000 al mes.  Si hacemos las cuentas ganaba menos de dos dólares la hora. Cómo mujer inmigrante, pensé que no tenía derechos y que no tenía posibilidad de reclamar.

Mi historia no es única.  Como organizadora, escucho a diario los casos de mujeres que han sido discriminadas y abusadas como resultado de su estatus migratorio. Más de tres cuartos de las trabajadoras del hogar en este país son inmigrantes, y la mitad de ellas son mujeres indocumentadas.  Por más de 75 años las trabajadoras del hogar hemos sido excluidas de las leyes laborales básicas. Actualmente seguimos viviendo en una sociedad donde el trabajo del hogar no es valorado, ni reconocido siendo tan digno como cualquier otro.  Las mujeres del hogar trabajan en las sombras y las trabajadoras indocumentadas aún más.  Pero el trabajo de las mujeres inmigrantes hace posible el resto del trabajo en este país.  Cuidamos a las cosas que son más importantes: las casas, los hijos y los seres queridos de nuestros empleadores, ayudando a que nuestros empleadores puedan lograr sus propias metas personales y profesionales.  Nuestro trabajo es esencial, pero poco reconocido.

Aunque las mujeres y los niños somos 3/4 de todos los inmigrantes en este país, las leyes de inmigración nos excluyen.  Hacemos fuertes las familias, las escuelas, las comunidades y la economía de este país, sin embargo, como mujeres inmigrantes en ocasiones nos da temor a exigir nuestros derechos por miedo a las represalias o amenazas de llamar a inmigración.  Nuestros niños viven con el miedo de perder a sus papas como resultado de las deportaciones.  Para millones de mujeres inmigrantes trabajadoras, es urgente una reforma migratoria que nos dará la oportunidad de vivir sin miedo, estar unidas con nuestras familias y trabajar con respeto y dignidad.

El abuso que viví como trabajadora del hogar inmigrante me dio la fortaleza y ganas de querer hacer cambios en mi comunidad. Como Organizadora Nacional con la Alianza Nacional de Trabajadoras del Hogar, ahora tengo la oportunidad de trabajar al lado de trabajadoras del hogar, mujeres inmigrantes y una gran diversidad de mujeres aliadas por cambios que nos beneficiarán a todos.  Nuestra campaña We Belong Together está mostrando que la inmigración es un asunto de mujeres y que cuando trabajamos juntos los grupos de mujeres, inmigrantes y comunidades de fe, podemos cambiar el balance de poder y lograr leyes migratorias más justas, especialmente para las mujeres y los niños.

Este país es nuestro hogar y el lugar donde hacemos una multitud de contribuciones cada día.  Estamos luchando para que las contribuciones de las trabajadoras del hogar y millones de inmigrantes más serán vistas y valoradas.  Los invitamos a unirse a nuestra campaña, y juntos podremos hacer más fuertes nuestras comunidades y este país.

In solidarity,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maria Huerta

National Domestic Workers Alliance

2 Responses to “Day 13: We Belong Together: Women Working for Fair Immigration Reform”

  1. charyn parsons says:

    i agree with the fair treatment of immigrants. i am afraid i do not understand the whole story. what is it about america’s immigration laws that keep so many from becoming citizens? is it money, or to hard? please explain to me so i have a better idea of what is keeping hopefuls from becoming citizens

  2. Audra says:

    Charyn, there are many obstacles to becoming a citizen, including expenses, time, red tape,

    Here’s an infographic that explains some proposed paths for undocumented immigrants. You’ll note that for DREAMers, youth who were brought to the US as children by their parents, who might be eligible, would have to pay backtaxes on any income they earned while undocumented. Can you imagine how expensive that would be, in addition to all the other expenses that the path to citizenship require? That’s one example.

    It’s a very complicated and fraught issue for folks, and needless to say, this is why we need comprehensive immigration reform now so families can be protected.

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