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Why I am joining “We Belong Together” in Alabama

From Breakthrough’s president and CEO Mallika Dutt:

It was only this morning that I learned of Erica Delgado’s story. Erica was an undocumented immigrant in Wyoming who — after being confronted by ICE agents — set fire to her mobile home, killing herself and her 11-year-old daughter. Erica was terrified that she would be separated from her daughter — a U.S.-born citizen — and deported to Mexico where her abusive ex-husband still lived and could find her once again. It was an impossible choice that resulted in unspeakable tragedy.

It is because of stories like Erica’s that I will be joining the We Belong Together campaign for the Women’s Human Rights Delegation to Alabama, where I will bear witness and stand in solidarity with the women at the frontlines of the human rights crisis erupting on our soil.

Today, the escalating “war on women” has — rightly — sparked broad outrage and urgent action to protect human rights in the United States. What is missing from this conversation are the voices and experiences of immigrant women, regardless of their legal status.

The “war on immigrants” is not a parallel crisis — it is a direct affront to women’s fundamental human rights. Laws like Alabama’s HB 56 and enforcement measures like 287g have turned the routine aspects of women’s daily lives — attending work or school, access to basic health and reproductive care, driving to the grocery store — into experiences of monitoring, fear and profound suffering. These laws devastate families, the local economy, the state and — it’s becoming clear — the soul of our nation.

Through my work at Breakthrough, I have witnessed and shared the stories of women whose lives and families have been torn apart by our broken immigration system. Women like Juana Villegas, who — while nine months pregnant — was detained after a routine traffic stop and forced to give birth in shackles. Women like Shirley Tan, who lives in fear of being separated from her partner and their two children because she is undocumented and unable to legally marry her female partner of ten years.

I am going to Alabama because each day, women like Erica, Juana and Shirley are forced to make impossible choices about their safety, their health, their livelihoods or indefinite separation from their families and communities. These are choices no women should have to make in the United States or elsewhere.

I hope you will join me in standing in solidarity with the women of Alabama and beyond to demand the recognition of immigrant women’s rights as fundamental human rights and bring the war on women to an end. Because the escalating war on women is an attack on the fundamental human rights of all women in the United States, documented or otherwise.

The only way forward is together. I’ll see you in Alabama.

* * * * *
Mallika Dutt is the president and CEO of Breakthrough, a global human rights organization that uses the power of media, pop culture and community mobilization to inspire people to take action for dignity, equality and justice. Through award-winning initiatives in India and the United States, Breakthrough addresses critical global issues including violence against women, sexuality and HIV/AIDS, racial justice and immigrant rights.

Read more: http://www.momsrising.org/blog/why-i-am-joining-we-belong-together-in-alabama/#ixzz1ptXNMyMe

From Alabama: “We stand in solidarity with our sisters, and all immigrant women around the nation”

We are currently in Alabama with the We Belong Together delegation of activists and thought leaders who are working to protect and promote the rights of immigrant women. Read more about our trip here and a statement from the ground below:

WE BELONG TOGETHER WOMEN’S HUMAN RIGHTS20120321_mfw_wbt_al_509
DELEGATION STATEMENT

Together, we are a diverse group of women leaders representing national advocacy communities. We represent faith-based, legal, human rights, worker rights, civil rights, immigrant rights, children advocate and reproductive justice organizations. We have traveled from throughout the country to come together with our sisters here in Birmingham, Alabama – the battleground of the civil rights movement – to bear witness to the impact of the harshest anti-immigrant law in the US – HB56.

Last night we listened to the stories of Jocelyn, Trini, Tere, Elvia, Araceli, Jovita, Maricela:
• The story of a 14-year old girl left alone in Alabama, the only home she’s ever known, when her parents were forced to leave for Mexico – a courageous young woman who has become an outspoken youth leader in the movement for immigrant rights.
• The story of a survivor of domestic violence who worries that because of HB56, other women facing life-threatening abuse will be unable to liberate themselves as she bravely did.
• The story of a mother who lived through the upheaval and displacement of a tornado, who told us that her family was “barely renewing their lives” when HB56 plunged them into chaos again.
• The story of a mother who came for a life-saving heart surgery for her son only to learn, that under HB56, her son may be unable to access follow-up surgery and care he desperately needs.
• The story of a woman who has repeatedly been harassed and terrorized by police, whom she once trusted, but now whose racial profiling and corruption has been legitimized by HB56.
• The story of a mother with a disabled child who fears separation from her son each and every day as she faces the threat of deportation.
• And the story of a woman who told us of her love for Birmingham and for her only son, but who now fears being deported to a country where there is no work for her or future for her child.

The common bond among these women is the dream for a better life for themselves and their families and the right to live without fear. The sacrifices that these women have made for the well-being of their families, to earn a living to support those families, to obtain life-saving health care for their children, are the same sacrifices that generations of women have made in coming to this country to provide for the ones that they love. Moreover, the women who shared their stories with us made it clear that the ability to stay in Alabama is, in many cases, a matter of life and death. The reality is that for these women, the decision to leave or to stay here in their homes is an impossible weighing of unthinkable risks. We listened with empathy and compassion to the stories of fear, psychological abuse, and torment that are representative of the experiences of immigrant women and children in Alabama. Woven throughout these stories is the spirit of resiliency, courage, empowerment, and most importantly – love. As Trini told us, “If we were going to stay, we were going to act!”

That is our pledge: that we, too, will act to fight HB 56 and all other anti-immigrant, anti-family laws. We cannot have a democracy if any group is denied basic human rights and access to basic human needs. Today, we stand in solidarity with our sisters, and all immigrant women around the nation, by pledging to hold these stories in our hearts. We pledge to bring these stories back to our communities, to share them with our constituencies, and to use these stories to educate our nation’s decision-makers. In turn, we call upon everyone who values human rights and social justice to join our courageous sisters in Alabama who are fighting for the right to live with dignity, humanity, and justice. Stand with us and stand with our sisters to support the repeal of HB56, fight the spread of racist anti-immigrant policies, and uplift our shared humanity, and the dream for a brighter future.

Why the “war on women” is bigger than you think.

Imagine this scenario: you feel safer staying with your abusive husband than you do calling the cops to report him.

For many immigrant women in Alabama and elsewhere, that scenario is reality. The escalating “war on women” has —- rightly —- sparked broad outrage and urgent action to protect human rights in the United States.

Now let’s make sure we continue to fight, side by side, for the fundamental human rights of all U.S. women —- including immigrant women, documented or otherwise.

A team from Breakthrough, led by president and CEO Mallika Dutt, is headed to Birmingham, Alabama today with the We Belong Together delegation of activists and thought leaders who are working to protect and promote the rights of immigrant women.

Alabama’s HB56, enacted last June, is regarded as the nation’s strictest anti-immigrant law. It permits —- in fact, encourages —- racial profiling by police of anyone even suspected of being undocumented, with results that devastate families, the local economy, the state and, potentially, the soul of our nation. Breakthrough will be there with our video cameras and social media streams to expose the human rights violations targeting women and families on our own soil —- and to amplify the collective call for dignity, equality, and justice for all.

Please follow Mallika Dutt on Twitter (@mallikadutt) for on-the-ground updates, starting late this afternoon. And please join Breakthrough in Alabama on Facebook,Twitter and Foursquare to stand up for the human rights of all women.

The Breakthrough Team

Freedom University: Undocumented College Students in Georgia Forced to Attend Underground School

Crossposted from Democracy Now-

As Georgia votes in its Super Tuesday primary, the state Senate has voted to ban undocumented immigrant students from all public universities. Undocumented students from Georgia are already barred from the state’s five most competitive schools and must pay out-of-state tuition at other state schools. “Telling us that we cannot obtain higher education, that we cannot go to college or community college, even if we work hard and do our best in school, it is crushing dreams, it is crushing goals,” says Keish Kim, an undocumented student from South Korea who now attends Freedom University, an ad hoc underground school in Athens, Georgia, where university professors volunteer to teach undocumented students kept out of public classrooms. We also speak with Azadeh Shahshahani, director of the National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project at the ACLU of Georgia.