If you’re reading this, it’s because we have just been arrested. On Thursday morning, we stood outside Congress as part of a group of 100 women leaders, and we demanded “salud, dignidad, y justicia”—health, dignity, and justice—for immigrant women. We called on the House of Representatives to take action on immigration reform that recognizes the contributions, and reflects the needs and experiences, of immigrant women and families.
For years, we at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health have been mobilizing Latinas to advance reproductive justice for immigrant women, and early this year we redoubled our organizing and advocacy on these critical issues. On Thursday, we took our efforts one step further, accepting the risks of arrest and separation from our families because we know Congress needs to wake up, listen, and act. We participated in this action because we can no longer stand by while some policymakers ignore the need for inclusive, comprehensive immigration reform with a roadmap to citizenship—and others like Rep. Steve King (R-IA) peddle tired, racist stereotypes and propose punishing restrictions on the health, success, and full integration of immigrant families into society.
By participating in an act of principled civil disobedience, we stand on the shoulders of leaders in women’s, civil, and human rights who have established a long and honored tradition of peaceful protest. This history includes many women, Latin@s, and people of color—people like the Puerto Ricans who protested the U.S. military presence in Culebra and Vieques, the women suffragists who were imprisoned for demanding a vote, and then force fed when they went on hunger strikes, and of course the legendary leaders of the U.S. civil rights movement like Rosa Parks and Dorothy Height. More recently, Latina DREAMers and immigrant advocates have led by example, engaging in civil disobedience and even infiltrating detention centers to call for compassionate, common sense immigration reform.
Today, we humbly add our names to these ranks, in hopes of helping to tip the scales toward justice.
We also recognize that our sacrifice today is small—particularly when we consider that right now thousands of women across the country are being held in immigration detention centers, separated from their families and support networks, and subjected to human rights abuses, from denial of HIV medication to shackling during childbirth. It is for these women that we raise our voices.
We also know that immigrant women living in the shadows of our communities face another kind of confinement, as they are locked out of our health care and family support systems. We know that right now, there is a woman with a lump in her breast that she can’t get checked out because she has no access to health care. There is a trans woman who is being profiled and targeted by immigration officials. There is a woman who is risking her health with black market medication because it’s the only kind available to her. It is for these women that we risked arrest.
We’re fighting #4immigrantwomen. And we’re going to keep fighting after we’re released from jail, until Congress reforms our immigration system to recognize the basic human rights of every person within our borders—including access to quality, affordable health care, regardless of immigration status. Will you join us? Click here to take action and tell Congress that you’re fighting for immigrant women too.
¡Que siga la lucha!