NASW Sponsors Women’s Summit

Irasema CoronadoIrasema Coronado was on a panel about women and immigration.

With the threat of losing Title X funding, this year’s Women, Money, Power Summit in Washington could not have occurred at a more critical time for attendees.

NASW was a pioneer sponsor of the conference hosted by the Feminist Majority and the YWCA. It took place in early April just as federal lawmakers were pledging drastic cuts to the fiscal year 2011 budget. Adding to the drama was a midnight April 8 deadline to reach a settlement or face a government shutdown.

Proposals by leading Republicans included elimination of all federal funding to Title X of the Public Health and Services Act. Title X is the only federal grant program dedicated to the provision of comprehensive family planning services to assist thousands of public health and family planning clinics serving millions of people, according to the Feminist Majority.

The threat of losing funds for a program that serves mostly women galvanized support from the crowd, said conference attendee Kathy Bonk, executive director of Communications Consortium Media Center. “This was the third time I have attended the summit and this was by far the best one,” said Bonk, who was a panelist for a presentation on social media and women at the event. She said women continue to be challenged to defend their rights.

“Social services have the least amount of funds to help them campaign for their own support,” she said. “These are challenging times so we must (support women’s rights) to keep moving forward.”

Stacy Collins, an NASW senior practice associate, attended the event along with other senior practice staffers and NASW Social Work Pioneer® Bernice Harper.

“The conference speakers made clear that the attacks on Title X — as well as the barrage of state-level restrictions enacted in recent years — are a concerted attempt to eliminate the reproductive health provider system in this country,” Collins said.

On April 9, Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, announced to attendees that lawmakers had reached a tentative budget agreement to avoid a government shutdown, and that Title X funding was safe for the time.

Attendees of the summit had the opportunity to participate in a variety of workshops on issues from health insurance reform to reducing violence against women.

Irasema Coronado, political science professor and associate provost at the University of Texas at El Paso, was a panelist for the workshop titled “Keeping the Dream Alive: Immigration Reform, Women and the DREAM Act.”

Coronado said she focused her discussion on the ways women and families are adversely affected by existing immigration regulations. The bill, which is fully titled the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, was reintroduced in the U.S. Senate after the conference on May 11. It would make it easier for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to become citizens.

Coronado said the current deportation process leaves undocumented mothers particularly vulnerable as they are forced to leave their children behind while they face deportation.

“Many of these women are finding themselves in border cities in shelters wondering what to do next,” Coronado said. She said children who are born in the U.S. but who have undocumented parents are victims of circumstance.

Besides promoting the provisions of the DREAM Act, Coronado said U.S. immigration laws need to consider families as a unit. She said she would support any legislation that would add spouses of legal immigrants as automatic citizens.

She said participating in the summit “was exciting and it was wonderful to be part of this.”

Organizers also hosted a luncheon that honored House Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Elizabeth Shuler, labor activist and secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO.