January 2009

Today President Obama signed his first piece of major legislation

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act!

He reminds us that we’re all created equal, and each of us deserves a chance to pursue our own version of happiness.

Thank you, Mr. President. This is long overdue. And it is not lost on the world of feminism that this was the first (major) bill you have chosen to sign.

Yesterday was so clearly a day for the history books. It was evident in all the exchanges I had with people yesterday. There was an underlying understanding that we were living through a great “where were you when…” moment.

Some of my hopefulness is dashed as I read headline after headline about yesterday’s events in which the only mention of Michelle Obama deals with her outfits. Really? As the headline over at Feministing so accurately summed up my frustration,

Historic Moment! Michelle Obama Wears a Dress

The historical significance of yesterday’s events somehow exaggerates the offensiveness of reducing this woman to her clothing. Reports could have asked her how it feels to be First Lady, what her plan is for how she will fill this role, or even what she thought of the inauguration events. Instead, we get this:

Who Made Michelle Obama’s Dresses? (ChicagoTribune)

Michelle Obama Wears it Well (BostonGlobe)

First Lady Passes Fashionista Test (ABC)

Michelle Obama Makes Important Statement with Fashion Choice (Bloomberg)

The First Lady Tells a Story with Fashion (NYTimes)

So on a day in which reporters gushed about how we can now tell our children that they can truly be anything they want to be, the message to little girls continues to be: what matters most is how you look.


Today the House passed the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Now it’s on to the Senate, where it stalled last time. They vote next week. Please urge your senators to support fair pay here!

This bill could be one of the first that President-elect Obama signs into law; an excellent first step.

Parents and out-of-state students of California universities are challenging the constitutionality of AB 540, which allows undocumented high school students to pay in-state tuition rates at public universities. They argue that the law gives preferential treatment to undocumented students that is not given to out-of-state students who are US citizens.

Cristina Jimenez points out:

Undocumented students who qualify for in-state tuition have grown up in California. Most of them migrate with their families at an early age and have lived in the state most of their lives. By all means, they are residents of the state. To be eligible for in-state tuition, they must meet the following: 1) Attended a California high school for three years, 2) Graduated from a California high school, 3) Signed an affidavit saying they will gain permanent immigration status as soon as they become eligible.

Let’s also keep in mind that unlike students who are U.S citizens or documented immigrants, undocumented students do not have access to financial aid, loans, and can’t work legally to pay for their studies. Most of these students, some of them who graduate high school with honors, work two to three low-wage jobs to pay for their education–evidently, not an easy journey. (DMI blog)

Clearly the people arguing against CA’s version of the DREAM Act do not understand their privilege.  All they would need to do is live in CA for one year in order to qualify for in-state tuition.  In contrast, many of the undocumented students have lived in the state for most of their lives. Many of them are excellent students who only want the chance to continue their education in order to find good jobs upon graduation.

The anti-immigrant argument is illogical when it comes to educating children.  First of all, these children did nothing wrong. Many of them were brought here as babies by their parents who were searching for better lives. Second, why spend so much money educating these children in public schools only to prevent them from attaining degrees that will help them to becoming contributing members of society? Preventing these students from attending college doesn’t magically send them back to their home countries.  They will still be here, and without giving them access to an education, we refuse them the tools to improve their lives and support their families.


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