Immigrants and Suffragettes

Monday, 20 October 2014 19:20

There are parallels between between how women earned the vote a hundred years ago and how the undocumented are earning the right to be become citizens today.


In the early 20th century the women's suffrage movement split into two parts. One group lead by Alice Paul wanted to continue to have radical confrontations with the establishment including picketing at the White House. The other lead by Susan B Anthony wanted to find accommodation and compromise. The immigration reform movement now finds itself at the same type of a split. Is it time to take incremental acceptance of the undocumented like President Obama is offering or should the movement keep struggling and fighting for CIR (Comprehensive Immigration Reform) with a pathway to citizenship for all?

The women's suffrage movement lived with the split for a decade and eventually in 1920 the 19th amendment passed and women had earned the right to vote. The lessons to be learned from women's suffrage is that we in the immigrants rights movement should accept that these two threads are mutually beneficial. The radicals keep the pressure on to make the big change and the compromisers keep the ball moving slowly toward our goal.

In last weeks post we talked about the pathway to citizenship that is now open for undocumented immigrants with US born children in the military. Soon hopefully President Obama will live up to his word and open a path for people who have been here for more than 15 years and who have been good citizens in everything except name. But to make that happen the pressure from the radical side of the movement is necessary to keep the pressure on. And then maybe the new Republican Congress will have a “Nixon goes to China” moment and pass real immigration reform. Don't give up on either front. This struggle like women's suffrage a hundred years ago is a long term battle of attrition.