GOP Congresswoman: 'Immigration Is Really a Woman Issue'

By Melanie Arter | December 5, 2013 | 1:11 PM EST

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.)( Starr)

( – Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), speaking at a forum on women leadership on Wednesday, said immigration is a female issue, because the male has either been deported or the father “is not present.”

“I think that folks who have dealt with refugees and immigrant families see how much it impacts women, because so often many times, the male is not there. Either he’s been deported or the dad is not present. And immigration is really a woman issue. It’s a family-centered issue,” Ros-Lehtinen said at the forum sponsored by Politico.

The Florida congresswoman said she came to the United States at the age of eight as a Cuban refugee.

“I think that we need to focus it more that way and look at it more about how it impacts domestic violence also, because if you’re an immigrant who does not have papers, you’re less likely to tell the police or any law enforcement official that you’re being abused or that your employer is not paying you correctly.”

Ros-Lehtinen said issues like domestic violence and human trafficking are tied to immigration and “gravely” impact women.

“Not that there are women issues – I agree with Ann – there are no women issues, but this issue of immigration directly impacts women, and it’s usually the mom and the kids,” she said.