Women arrested demanding fair immigration reform

By Sue Misao
Northwest Asian Weekly

Peggy Lynch, wife of Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, was one of about 30 women arrested at the Washington Republican State Headquarters in Bellevue. She an others were demanding immediate action on comprehensive immigration reform. (Photo by Eddie Westerman/WEA)

More than 30 women, including Peggy Lynch, wife of Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, were arrested at the Washington State Republican Headquarters on Nov. 7, demanding “immediate action on a comprehensive immigration law that treats women and children fairly.”

The event was one of 10 coordinated actions taking place across the country in key Republican House member districts. Before the arrests, a crowd of about 150 gathered in downtown Bellevue to demand that Republicans — in particular McMorris Rodgers, Herrera Beutler, Reichert and Hastings — take action and pass comprehensive immigration reform this year.

The marchers headed from Downtown Park in Bellevue to the Washington State Republican Headquarters, where they held a rally outside the building. Several women, including Diane Narasaki, executive director of Asian Counseling and Referral Service, spoke and shared their personal connections to the issue. Elena Perez of UFCW Local 21 was one of several women risking arrest for refusing to leave the premises of the state Republican party.

“I am a descendent of immigrants, like many others in this country,” said Perez. “Immigration laws are broken, and they should not be enforced on the backs of those who come here to work hard and contribute to this country. Families must stay united and the deportations must stop now.”

The event was geared to focus attention on the burden born by women and children, who make up three quarters of the immigrant population in the United States, according to OneAmerica, an immigrant advocacy group.

While participants rallied and chanted outside the Republican headquarters, 40 women refused to leave until the four Washington Republican leaders signed onto HR 15, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act that is currently before the United States House of Representatives.

In addition to Lynch, other Asian American women arrested at the scene included Sharon Rae Maeda, Executive Director of 21 PROGRESS, Marissa Vichayapai of 21 PROGRESS and Northwest Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), Priscilla Kyu of NAPAWF, and Heather Villanueva of SEIU Healthcare 775NW. Other high-profile women were among the arrested, including the executive directors of Casa Latina and the NW Network, the political director of SEIU Healthcare 1199 Northwest, and the presidents of Washington Education Association and AFT Washington.

Lynne Dodson, secretary treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, was also arrested.

“Too many immigrant workers are left in the shadows, their work exploited as they live in fear,” said Dodson, “Women immigrant workers in particular tend to do work that is hidden from public view, so their rights are violated without consequence or scrutiny. We cannot keep silent and allow this unjust system to stand.”

The action grew out of the momentum from a Sept. 12 civil disobedience action in Washington, D.C., in which 105 women — 25 of whom were undocumented — were inspired to bring the issue to their home districts by staging local civil disobedience actions and increasing pressure on their local representatives. (end)

Sue Misao can be reached at editor@nwasianweekly.com.

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