It was exactly 20 years ago this month on a bright, cold February morning that I was making my way up to Capitol Hill. I had been asked to testify before the Judiciary Committee at the “Expert Consultation on Home and Family Care.” I was in a bit of a panic. Would I make it on time? There was snow. What kind of questions were they going to ask me? Immigration law was hardly my field of expertise. I was excited and a mass of butterflies all at once.
About 20 of us had been invited to speak. We were seated in a horse-shoe desk arrangement with a group of Commissioners at one end. I felt as though I were in movie set. Each of us was to prepare a 3-5 minute talk about how the current immigration laws impacted our businesses. Clearly the laws were having a negative impact on the in home childcare industry. There were never enough legal nanny candidates to fill the many open childcare positions. An underground workforce was created by the onerous laws that prevented people from getting there papers. For years, we always joked that if Zoe Baird had come to White House Nannies, she would have been Attorney General. We wouldn’t have let her hire an illegal couple.
I have some very strong memories of my morning. One was that the panel of people quizzing us was comprised of all men save one lone woman. The head of the Commission was Cardinal Bernard Law. I kept wondering why there were all these men on this panel. Second, I was the second or third person called upon. 20 minutes later the panelists were still asking me questions—I’m sure much to the complete dismay of the other people around the table who now would not have their 3-5 minutes to talk.
My other strong memory involved another guest, an economist from Cornell University (I remember that factoid because Cornell rejected me) who suggested that a possible solution to the childcare shortage was to employ recently released convicts who find it so hard to land jobs after serving prison time. Seriously? I almost jumped out of my seat. Really, Mr. Ivy League Economist from Cornell? Recently released prison inmates as the supply chain for nanny jobs? So helpful and provocative an idea. (Did I mention Cornell rejected me and took him?)
I wish I could remember more of the questions. I do remember the panel was genuinely interested and engaged in learning about the impact of the then current immigration laws on in home care. I really hoped we had been able to show that the immigration laws needed revision. Months later I was so disappointed to learn that absolutely nothing was accomplished by this hearing. There were no specific recommendations made by the panel.
So here we are– 2013. Maybe, just maybe something will finally get done. Fingers crossed.