As we get dangerously close to the July 29th date of implementation of Arizona’s anti-immigrant legislation SB1070, we become appraised of more and more ways that it will adversely impact different communities in the state of Arizona. Not least of these is the way that it could prove extremely detrimental to women and children.
The new law, by mandating that local police in Arizona enforce immigration law and stop and question anyone that appears “reasonably suspicious” of being undocumented, inevitably creates a climate of fear in the immigrant community and erodes their trust of their local law enforcement officers. While immigration is an issue that impacts both the sexes, it affects men and women in different ways and at times like this, looking at it through a gendered lens is key to understanding its long-term impact on the community. And so, since Governor Jan Brewer signed Senate Bill 1070 into law on April 23rd, there have been a number of articles re-examining the ways immigration is a “women’s issue” and how immigrant women will especially affected by the new law.
According to data from the Census Bureau, 50% of all immigrants are women, and we find that a third of these women are functioning as the primary breadwinners for their families once they arrive in the United States. While immigrant women have been extremely successful in the U.S., working hard and looking after their children, they remain an extremely vulnerable group, being dependent on their husband’s visas, lacking access to adequate reproductive health care, dealing with sexual violence before and after coming to the United States, and being unable to report violence out of fear of local enforcement. Even without SB1070, we can see the problems that immigrant women have to face. Like the moving story from Gender Across Borders about Blanca-
Blanca had been the victim of domestic violence at the hands of her partner for several years…Blanca never went to the police about the abuse even though she came close to losing her life on several occasions. In many states, including some parts of New York, those who contact the police for help can be questioned about their immigration status. If she had been discovered living in the US without permission, she would have been deported. Her son had been born with a heart defect and received therapy and close monitoring from a doctor in New York. If she had been deported, she would have had to choose between leaving her children in the care of their violent father or bringing them with her and endangering the health, and possibly risking the life, of her son.
And until we get fair and humane comprehensive immigration reform, laws like Arizona’s SB1070 will ensure that immigrant women who are victims and witnesses sexual abuse, partner rape, domestic violence, stalking and assault get pushed further into invisibility as they fear that reporting crimes to the police will result in them being questioned about their immigration status. By requiring that police ask for identification from anyone that comes to their notice that they “suspect” might be here without the right papers, organizations like the National Network to End Violence Against Immigrant Women are extremely concerned that even those that provide services to victims of abuse will now hesitate to extend their services to undocumented immigrants for fear of criminal prosecution. They are working towards halting the implementation of the law by organizing law enforcement opposition to it and collecting stories of those who are already being affected by it.
On May 9th, women’s rights leaders from around the country met to participate in an Emergency Women’s Human Rights Delegation to listen to testimonies about the impact of SB1070 on women and children who were already suffering the repercussions of racial profiling sweeps and raids as a result of 287(g) agreements between Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and local police. Following this, 500 women marched to the State Capitol in Phoenix on Mother’s Day to draw attention to the ways in which they had been affected, including families being separated, physical and psychological abuse from law enforcement officers, racial profiling and deportation without due process.
The testimonies and efforts of organizations such as the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the National Domestic Worker Alliance, the AFL-CIO, the Family Values at Work Consortium and Jobs with Justice have culminated in an ad-hoc Congressional Hearing of women and children directly affected by SB1070, that will take place in Washington D.C. tomorrow. The hearing will seek to convey the urgency of the situation in which SB1070 has created an environment in which the human rights of women and children are under attack, and will call on President Obama to end immigration enforcement programs that are complicit in such human rights abuses.
When looking at the adverse effects that harsh enforcement practices have on immigrant women, it is impossible to ignore the ways in which they impact the well-being of the millions of children that are implicated in this broken immigration system. These children are our country’s future, and we cannot afford to have our future hang in the balance of a broken system.
Photo courtesy of jezebel.com