Mexico native Guadalupe Ramirez, 18, was able to obtain
her driver's license and a work permit under a new immigration policy set last
year by President Barack Obama, but her mother still has no path to citizenship.
Immigration attorney Danielle Briand has female clients who are too afraid to report abusive partners because of a fear of deportation.
And Athenit Vila, of the Latino Advocacy Foundation of Fairfield County, provides advocacy services to undocumented women who are overworked and underpaid as domestic help and have no legal status to stand up for themselves.
So on Monday, national Women's Equality Day, the women joined nearly two dozen others on the steps of the Margaret Morton Government Center to call on the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the Senate-approve immigration reform bill.
"Now is the critical moment for us," Briand said. "I'm here today because I believe immigration reform is a women's equality issue. I know my women clients can achieve their dreams when they legalize their status."
Monday marked the 93rd anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women the right to vote.
"We're here to honor all the women who struggled before us," said Meghan Vessel, deputy director of the Brazilian Immigrant Center. "We're part of a historical legacy, and we're carrying on that struggle."
She noted that women and children make up three-quarters of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the Unites States, and women alone make up more than half that population. The group took an oath to support and defend the rights of women and undocumented immigrants "whose needs are woefully ignored by our broken system."
They were joined by a representative from the office of U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn, who read a statement from the congressman in support of the immigration reform bill and the group's advocacy efforts.
Mayor Bill Finch, who was walking back toward his office in the government center, showed his support by joining the group toward the end of the hourlong event. He noted that Wednesday marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, in which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous "I have a dream" speech.
"People forget that was called the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom," said Finch. "That's what we're doing now. We're asking for jobs and freedom."
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