As the Supreme Court considers key elements of Arizona’s SB 1070 law, which legalizes racial profiling of and blatant discrimination against immigrant communities and people of color, stories from around the country show that this and other laws like it, such as Alabama’s H.B. 56. are causing intense damage to families, communities and economies, with devastating consequences for immigrant women.
These laws leave parents unable to protect their children. They force women to choose between the threat of an abusive husband and the threat of deportation if they call the police. They send pregnant mothers to give birth in shackles with federal agents by their side.
As part of a delegation to Birmingham, Alabama with the We Belong Together campaign, Breakthrough president Mallika Dutt connects the dots between Arizona’s SB 1070 law, copycat state laws that followed it in states such as Georgia and Alabama, and the “war on women.” The war on immigrants and the escalating “war on women” are part of one sweeping crusade against the fundamental rights of all women living in the United States, documented and otherwise.
So as the Supreme Court hears this challenge, it’s time for us to protect the true American values of diversity and democracy, dignity and respect. It’s time for those of us outraged by women’s human rights violations across borders and oceans to support women’s human rights at home. We’re here to stand up for the rights of all women in the United States. Are you?
Tweet this: I’m here to support the human rights of all women in the United States. Are you?http://ow.ly/avYBw #immigration #waronwomen
By Breakthrough President Mallika Dutt. (Crossposted from RH Reality Check.)
Araceli doesn’t go out alone anymore. She is frightened of ongoing harassment by local police, whom she used to trust to protect her. Trini drops her two children off at school every morning unsure if she will be there at pickup time. Other mothers in her communities have, after all, been “disappeared,” taken from their homes, and families, without warning or trace.
Think this is happening in Kabul? Juarez?
Actually, it’s happening in Alabama and many other parts of our country.
Today, the escalating “war on women” has — rightly — sparked widespread outrage and urgent action to protect women’s human rights in the United States. But the also-ongoing “war on immigrants” is not merely a coincidental crisis. Both are elements of a sweeping crusade against the fundamental rights of women living in the U.S., documented and otherwise.
The current attacks on women’s health, sexuality, and self-determination — in states, in GOP debates, on the airwaves, and beyond — is appalling enough. But it’s only part of the story. The war on women is even more than an assault on the most basic and personal choices in our lives, even more than an assault on our right to determine if, when and under what circumstances to become mothers. It is also an attack on our essential right to mother— to raise healthy, safe children in healthy, safe families. And on that front, it is immigrant women and women of color who suffer the most.
Laws such as Alabama’s HB 56 and federal enforcement measures such as 287g have injected fear and anguish into even the most routine aspects of many women’s daily lives: going to work or taking kids to school, or seeing the doctor. HB 56 gives police officers sweeping authority to question and detain anyone they suspect of being undocumented, with snap judgments based on skin color — that is, blatant racial profiling — accepted as an “utterly fair” method of determining who to accost. It also requires school administrators to track the immigration status of their students. It is shocking in its singularity of purpose: to make everyday life so intolerable for undocumented immigrants to the United States. that they will, indeed, “self-deport.” And already, the consequences for immigrant families have been unspeakably high.
These are families like that of Jocelyn, a fourteen-year-old girl who was sent to live with relatives when it became too dangerous for her mother and father to stay in Alabama. Jocelyn is not alone: a growing number of parents are giving power of attorney over their children to friends, neighbors and employers — even landlords and other near-strangers because the threat of deportation and indefinite detention is just too real. Immigrants in detention are often denied the right to make arrangements for their children or attend family court hearings. Others have been stripped of their parental rights entirely. The Applied Research Center estimates that deportation of parents have left five thousand children currently in foster care.
All this in a climate where worship of “family values” — that is, in reality, certain value placed on certain families — has reached near maniacal proportions. Ask Maria about how this country really values women, babies and families, and she will tell you how harassment by ICE agents — who refused to leave her hospital bedside — nearly led to dangerous labor complications. Ask Juana about giving birth to her son in shackles. Ask Tere about “family values,” and she will tell you how she risked everything to bring her son to the U.S. for life-saving heart surgery. Today, the danger is on our soil: she is so afraid of being picked up and detained that she has stopped taking her son to the medical appointments his condition requires.
The current war on women is in many ways an unprecedented crisis. But it’s also an unprecedented opportunity for action. I have been deeply moved, inspired and challenged by the actions of women who have refused to be collateral in a culture war, women who are demanding their fundamental humanity above all else. It’s time to use that power to make it absolutely clear that this war on women is a war on all women.
Many activists and advocates have long fought for the women’s rights movement to include immigrants and the immigrant rights movement to include women. And right now, we have the attention of the 24-hour news cycle, the pundits, the politicians, the millions of people in this country who value families and fairness — and who are now seeing the true colors of those who do not.
As the Supreme Court gets ready to hear a challenge to these egregious immigration laws, it’s time for those of us outraged by women’s human rights violations across borders and oceans to step up for all women’s human rights at home. It’s time to stop fighting battles in isolation. It’s time to stand together to win this war once and for all.
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.
WE BELONG TOGETHER WOMEN’S HUMAN RIGHTS
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.
Guestblogger: Chris Harley, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum
Do you have a wish for this holiday season? I do. I wish that all families can stay together. That’s why I’m participating in A Wish for the Holidays, a campaign to gather 5,000 letters from kids asking our nation’s leaders to ensure that families stay together.
For me, holidays all boil down to spending time with my large extended family. Honestly, I don’t know how we all crowd into my Gramma’s 2-bedroom, one-story home, but most holidays, we manage to all squeeze in and enjoy a crazy day full of laughter, teasing, eating, and sharing. Like that one Christmas, when an innocent game of White Elephant gift exchanging turned into a chase around the house as my Aunt attempted to reclaim a new movie from her nephew.
In total, there are roughly 60 of us, including grandparents, aunts and uncles, kids, and great-grandkids. We come from all different backgrounds, religions, political views, and walks of life. We’re also a uniquely mixed-race family full of boisterous personalities. And every time we get together, despite all of our differences, I know that we embody the value of what it means to be a family.
This is why it breaks my heart to think of families and children who will spend this holiday season missing those who aren’t there with them. Recently, the We Belong Together effort led a delegation of women leaders to Atlanta, Georgia. Our goal was to listen to the experiences of women and children in Atlanta who have been impacted by Georgia’s new “papers please” law. This law makes it a state crime for an undocumented immigrant to live in the state and allows law enforcement to ask for documentation of anyone they “suspect” of being undocumented. The overarching fear from this, and similar state laws, is the risk of widespread racial profiling and abuse. So we went to Georgia to hear what was happening, and the stories we heard were heartbreaking.
Alicia spoke about her daughter, who suffers from a condition that causes her to have convulsions since she was one years old. Since Alicia doesn’t have a driver’s license, she only risks driving when she must rush her daughter to the hospital. Can you imagine what it means to be a mother whose only thought is to make sure her child is safe, and the most dangerous thing she can do is to risk driving to the hospital because if she were to be stopped by the police, she could be arrested and separated from her child?
Another woman, Claudia told us about the extreme abuse that her husband subjected her and her son to. Once he even chased them around their neighborhood with a knife until a neighbor called the police. Yet, because Claudia doesn’t have the right documents, she was deported and forced to leave her son with his abusive father until she could make her way back into this country and reclaim him. Can you imagine her terror and her son’s fear during that year of separation?
Unfortunately, we now know that those stories are no longer isolated incidents. The recently released “Shattered Families”, report documents just how devastating the impacts of enforcement-only immigration policies have on families. There are now at least 5,000 children in the American foster care system who are being prevented from being reunited with their detained or deported parents and this number is expected to exceed 15,000 in just five (5) years. Moreover, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention obstructs the ability for parents to participate in Child Protective Services’ family unification plans, and can result in detained parents actually losing their parental rights.
Are these the “family values” that we want this country to embody? What happened to caring about the children, who are our future?
We need to tell our country’s leaders that these policies, that tear families apart and leave children alone, isolated, and separated from their parents – who only wanted them to have a brighter future - that these policies don’t work. That’s why We Belong Together, has launched the “A Wish for the Holidays,” campaign where we are asking our kids, our future, to tell today’s leaders to keep families together! Our goal is to collect 5,000 letters that can be delivered on Human Rights Day, to elected leaders in DC and remind them that it’s the holidays, and families belong together.
Please help us collect letters from children and youth. Go to WeBelongTogether.org/wish, pledge to write letters, and then get started using the tools available online. Remember that letters need to be mailed in by November 30.