Adriana Cazorla used to live in the shadows. The 41-year-old domestic worker suffered from domestic violence at the hand of her then-husband, but felt she couldn’t seek help because of her undocumented status. She was in her “lowest moment,” she told NBC News through a translator, when a woman from her local YWCA approached her.
“I had been in a situation where I was suffering from domestic violence and hiding from immigration,” Cazorla said. “I was afraid because I was undocumented, and this woman told me, ‘You don’t have to continue suffering like this. You also have rights.’”
She noted that learning her rights was life-changing for her, and something she wanted all immigrant women to have access to. “Oftentimes when women are facing these kinds of problems, we feel like all the doors are closed,” she said. “So to be able to have a place where we can go and get the information we need is so important.”
Along with Immigration Advocates Network, We Belong Together — a campaign co-anchored by the National Domestic Workers Alliance and National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum — hopes to provide just that with a new website: Step Forward, which launched Tuesday on International Women's Day, aims to provide the approximately 5.2 million undocumented women and their families with the resources to understand their rights.
“I was afraid because I was undocumented, and this woman told me, ‘You don’t have to continue suffering like this. You also have rights.’”
Andrea Cristina Mercado, co-chair of the We Belong Together campaign, told NBC News that the website is available in both English and Spanish, and that she hopes to expand it to other languages.
“We’ve also talked with immigrant women as we’ve developed the website and had them even involved in the design of the website,” she said. “Not only choosing which design they liked the best, but also the resources that were important for them to have on there, like fraud, and worker rights and other sections in the website.”
Step Forward will also keep its readers updated on the status of immigration cases in the Supreme Court, as well as inform immigrants of already-existing programs.
In addition to providing information, the website serves as a platform for immigrant women to tell their stories. In a presidential election cycle that’s been marked by anti-immigrant rhetoric, noted Mercado, this is particularly important.
“We’ve been really concerned by the hateful rhetoric in the presidential debate, and that’s why we think that now, more than ever, it’s important to lift up the voices and stories of immigrant women and humanize the issue,” she said. “Three-quarters of immigrants are women and children. That’s why we have a stories section on the website to hear the stories and see the faces of women who are impacted by this issue.”
Cazorla, who is now an active advocate for the rights of immigration women, said she believes Step Forward will be a source of hope for many women like her.
“We’re fighting against domestic violence and to make sure that immigrant woman, particularly who are living in the shadows because of their immigration status, know that they’re not alone,” she said. “We’re with them, and we’re fighting to stop this cycle of victim-hood and to win stronger rights for all of us."
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that the We Stand Together campaign is co-anchored by the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the Immigration Advocates Network. The campaign is actually co-anchored by the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum.