On this International Women’s Day, who comes to mind when you think of a strong woman? Do you picture your mother? What about your grandmother or a sister? At CLINIC, our thoughts are drawn to a school teacher in Brockton, Massachusetts who fled Haiti after the devastating earthquake of 2010. Pinned under a car for hours, she survived, only to make her way to the United States with a tourist visa. At the one year anniversary of the earthquake, she has found herself ineligible to work and her family homeless in America.
This woman, like so many other brave Haitians ineligible to work in the United States, is fighting for her life once more. International Women’s Day calls us to recognize the challenges faced by this and other strong women and affirms CLINIC’s commitment to enhancing the delivery of legal services to indigent and low-income immigrants.
Formally established by the United Nations in 1975, International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global celebration of women’s advancement and achievements. However, the event dates back to 1911, making this the 100th anniversary! This year’s theme is Equal Access to Education, Training, Science and Technology: Pathway to Decent Work for Women.
As a result of their lack of status and limited educational opportunities, women who are living in the United States without immigration documents are often victims of financial instability and exploitation. Echoing the message of International Women’s Day, CLINIC considers access to education a top priority. In conjunction with the Justice for Immigrants Campaign of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) CLINIC continues to advocate extending in-state tuition rates to students who are undocumented by no fault of their own, and creating a pathway to citizenship for some of these same young people who would be significantly impacted by their ability to maintain self sufficiency and contribute to their communities.
Educational disparities have translated into economic inequalities between native born/immigrant men and immigrant women. For women, migration is often considered the best option for economic viability, optimal health care and safety. However, immigrant women’s median income is $16,562 lower than native U.S. citizen men.
Coupled with limited access to resources, immigrant women are increasingly adopting roles as breadwinners. Wives often serve as the sole wage earners for their families due to long separations from relatives caused by visa backlogs. Despite having attained advanced degrees and professional experience in their home countries, women often face the economic and emotional hardships of immigration-related family separation. CLINIC recognizes that United States immigration policies should prioritize family reunification and reflect the overwhelming financial and social realities that disadvantage immigrant women and men.
So make everyday International Women’s Day! For more information on supporting strong immigrant women and men, please visit CLINIC’s advocacy initiatives: http://cliniclegal.org/programs/center-for-immigrant-rights.
*Ms. Winkler works with CLINIC’s Advocacy Section