By Natalie Wood
The United States is a nation of immigrants. Immigrants have been an essential part of American society since our country’s inception. According to the Census Bureau’s 2011 American Community Survey, there are currently more than 40.3 million immigrants in the United States, representing 13% of the total population. This number includes those who are considered citizens (approximately 18 million) and those who are not (approximately 22 million).
An estimated one-in-five children in the United States is the child of an immigrant. These immigrants and their children enrich our culture and contribute to our economic growth, making the United States one of the most diverse nations on the planet.
The current immigration debate covers a range of issues from border security to the economy, but does not always focus on how immigration policies and practices impact immigrant families, women, and children in terms of their social and economic status. Immigrant women may face unique situations, including domestic violence and being trafficked into the United States. These women are also more likely to experience poverty. In Washington State, female immigrant workers earned approximately $9,000 dollars less than male immigrant workers in 2011. In the same year, more than 19% of all immigrant families with children under eighteen lived below the poverty level in Washington State, compared to 12% of native families with children under eighteen.
While border security and the economic needs of our country are important aspects of the immigration debate, the discussion should not be limited to these two issues. Any discussion on immigration reform should include how to best protect the welfare of both documented and undocumented immigrant women, children and their families, including those who are victims of violence and trafficking.
YWCA’s history, both locally and nationally, is one of empowering and strengthening our communities. This includes every individual, regardless of documentation or citizenship status. We will continue to strive for the elimination of racism, the empowerment of women, and peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. YWCA Clark County and YWCA USA both have policy statements on immigration.
“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”
― Franklin D. Roosevelt