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AFL-CIO Now

Immigration Policy Reform Can’t Leave Domestic Workers Behind

Photo courtesy of the We Belong Together campaign.

Pointing to a New York City nanny who is undocumented and has spent years raising, nurturing and keeping other people’s children safe and attended today’s Senate immigration reform hearing, Ai-Jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), told lawmakers:

If immigration reform doesn’t help Pat and domestic workers and undocumented moms throughout our country, then we can’t really call it reform….It’s time we make our immigration policy work for domestic workers.

The hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee focused on how creating a commonsense immigration process should address the needs of women and families—about two-thirds of the current immigrant population are women and children.   

Poo outlined some needed fixes that should be met to ensure immigration reform does not leave women behind on the path to citizenship.

She first pointed out that millions of domestic workers like Pat work in an informal and paperless economy.     

If the road to citizenship requires proof of employment at any stage, domestic and informal sector workers will be run off, along with an with an estimated 40 percent of undocumented women who are stay at home moms—which of course is also work….We can use proof of presence to determine eligibility, both broadly and  accurately.

Poo also said that many aspiring citizen domestic and other workers are often victims of employer abuse, sometimes violence and unsafe working conditions, with employers using the threat of deportation to keep the women from taking action. Immigration policy reform should include provisions that:

Protect women from  dangerous working conditions and serious labor and civil rights violations on the job including sexual harassment, severe forms of exploitation and labor trafficking.  

An archived webcast of the hearing will be available shortly here and prepared testimony and statements here.

Read more about the united labor movement’s immigration principles

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