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Patty Kupfer on Civil Disobedience Action: "For Me, Something Changed Yesterday"


pattyThe following is a blog post from America’s Voice Managing Director Patty Kupfer, one of the women arrested in yesterday’s civil disobedience with We Belong Together:

There’s been a lot of buzz about the women’s action yesterday and I’m glad for it.  Having had a day to reflect on it (not to mention some much needed food and sleep), what a powerful experience to stand in front of the Capitol, link arms with so many other dedicated women, and walk out into the street knowing what would happen next.

But, what still truly astounds me about the experience yesterday were the 28 undocumented women who were arrested in the action. When I think about my contribution and my sacrifice, it was really just an inconvenience – 7 hours in a hot room with nothing to eat. But, the undocumented women who walked into the street yesterday took a much, much bigger risk, and for that reason, made a much, much bigger statement.

One of those women, Neira Ortega, is a leader within the California Domestic Workers Coalition and the group Mujeres Unidas y Activas.  When she first came to this country, Neira worked as a live-in childcare provider, working from Monday through Friday without leaving her employers’ home.  She was paid only $70 per week and was often told that she shouldn’t leave the home because ICE would find her.  And, yesterday, she sought out arrest, despite her status, to show that immigrants in this country are tired of being invisible.

Another thing that impressed me about yesterday was the diversity of the women involved and the sense of connection we all felt. We were women of every color, age and status.  As we waited in the police processing center to get searched and have our handcuffs removed, Bertha Lewis, founder of the Black Institute, and long-time civil rights defender, caused a ruckus amongst the police officers, pleading that Monica Ramirez, Deputy Director of Centro para los Derechos de los Migrantes, be released first because she’s a new mother who’s breastfeeding. The police at first said there was nothing they could do, but guess who was in the first five people to be released?

I’ll close with this. And, it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot in the last few days. If you’re reading the papers these days, you may very well think immigration reform is done for the year… dead. It seems the Republican message that there’s no time on the agenda for immigration reform has almost been taken at face value by the press. You’ve heard it.  Oh, with Syria, immigration reform will probably get pushed off the agenda. Right? What a farce. This is about leaders failing to lead and thinking they can ignore us and we’ll just go away. As we were sitting down in the street yesterday, singing “We Shall Not Be Moved,” and chanting “Si Se Puede,” there was such energy and such heart, all I could think was, “nothing can stop women (people) willing to take big risks.”

It was hard for us to tell as we formed the circle in the intersection if there was much press attention or whether the action would really get noticed outside our crowd, but for me, something changed yesterday. Rachel Maddow mentioned us on her show last night and she summed it up nicely… that with actions like these, and more pressure building on House Republicans, there’s only so long that dithering and stalling will be a sustainable position. I predict that day will come in early October.

A special thanks to We Belong Together for conceiving of this idea, bringing us all together and giving us all the opportunity to send such a powerful message.