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November 11, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Women and the fight for comprehensive immigration reform

In New Jersey last week, Gov. Chris Christie’s re-election provided a shining example of how Republicans nationwide might woo more women and Latino voters. (Here’s a link to a New York Times report on that race.)

Two days later, I was reminded why those two voter blocs tend to lean toward Democratic candidates when former Washington GOP Chairman Kirby Wilbur posted this message to his Twitter account:

Wilbur’s low-blow comment followed the arrest last Thursday of 33 women after they staged a non-violent sit-in at the Washington State Republican Party’s Bellevue headquarters. As The Seattle Times’ Lornet Turnbull reported, Mayor Mike McGinn’s wife, Peggy Lynch, was among those arrested after calling on the state’s GOP congressional delegates to urge a vote on comprehensive immigration reform before year’s end.

When asked by Seattle Times reporter Jim Brunner whether his tweet was appropriate, Wilbur responded, “Yup.” Someone give this man a clue. This is not how you bring new voters into the party.

Women have played a critical role in keeping the immigration reform debate alive in recent months. For good reason, too. Women and children make up three-quarters of the country’s immigrant population, according to We Belong Together co-chair and OneAmerica founder Pramila Jayapal. (Read this Colorlines report on how women have more to lose if reform efforts go nowhere.) Jayapal warns women immigrants are more susceptible to abuse from partners and employers. Without legal status, crimes against them often go unreported and victims lack access to critical services.

Thursday’s act of civil disobedience  in Bellevue would not have occurred in the first place if lawmakers just did their job to discuss ways to fix the country’s broken immigration system. With 16 days left in the session, the House is on the verge of squandering a bipartisan opportunity to pass landmark reforms. Washington’s Republican delegates must join the three other members of their party who’ve already spoken up to urge a vote.

Here’s an excerpt from our board’s Saturday editorial in The Seattle Times, which supports a House Democratic effort to pass the Senate’s version of a comprehensive immigration package that includes a path to citizenship:

While U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Medina, is a leader in the House Democrats’ effort as a bill sponsor, disappointingly none of Washington’s House Republicans are agitating for immigration reform.

Religious leaders, business owners and farmers are on board. A statewide survey released in September by KCTS 9 and Latino Votes shows 73 percent of 800 respondents support allowing law-abiding workers a process to come out of the shadows.

Yet Republican U.S. Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane, Dave Reichert of Auburn, Jaime Herrera Beutler of Camas and Doc Hastings of Pasco remain strangely ambivalent on an issue that has major implications for each of their districts.

They should urge the House Republican leadership to schedule a vote.


Comments | Topics: immigration reform, washington state


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