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Today We Stood #4ImmigrantWomen and Got Arrested

9:33 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

 

Written by Jessica González-Rojas and Kimberly Inez McGuire for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

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!

Court Strikes Local-Level Deportation Enforcement, Helping Immigrant Families

8:00 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Sheila Bapat for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Police Raid

A new ruling changes local enforcement of immigration.

On August 7, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that local police do not have the power to enforce deportation orders without explicit instruction from federal authorities. In the decision, Judge James A. Wynn wrote that “absent express direction or authorization by federal officials, state and local law enforcement officers may not detain or arrest an individual solely based on known or suspected civil violations of federal immigration law.” The ruling helps clarify the Supreme Court’s vague decision in Arizona v. United States last year about local discretion in enforcing immigration orders.

The civil rights ramifications of the Fourth Circuit’s ruling are clear. Less obvious are the economic consequences for immigrant families who fall within the Fourth Circuit’s jurisdiction, and whose livelihoods can now less capriciously be upended by local police.

As the Center for American Progress pointed out in a 2012 report:

The economic fallout of a deportation is perhaps the most significant of the long term consequences of immigration enforcement. … Prior to a detention or deportation, [many immigrant] families constitute a class of low-wage workers. With a detention or deportation, families slip easily into poverty. For families experiencing a detention or deportation, household income drops drastically from one day to the next, which is a shock for families already getting by on low wages.

The plaintiff in the Fourth Circuit case is Roxana Santos, a Salvadoran dishwasher at a Maryland food co-op. In the fall of 2008, Santos was approached by local police while she was on her lunch break at work. For 15 minutes the officers questioned her, looked at her Salvadoran identification, and then ran a background check, which revealed her outstanding deportation warrant per the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Santos was then jailed for the next 36 days, during which time she was separated from her 1-year-old son.

Her experience is not rare. “People in the community were sharing with us that they were being stopped and harassed,” said Enid Gonzalez, senior manager of Legal Services at Casa de Maryland, an immigrant rights and legal services organization based in Baltimore that aided Santos. The systemic seizures are believed to be at the behest of Sheriff Chuck Jenkins of Frederick County, Maryland, who, according to immigrant rights advocates, has been zealously enforcing deportation orders without federal direction.

While the Fourth Circuit’s decision does not explicitly mention Santos’ family or economic status, the implications are clear: She was an immigrant woman dishwasher sitting on a curb eating a sandwich when two armed officers approached, questioned, arrested, and jailed her.

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“War on Women” Increasingly Focused on Women of Color and Immigrant Women

12:05 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Natalie Camastra for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

VAWA. PRENDA. Aderholt.

What do all these words (and acronyms) have in common?

A woman lays with her head in her arms

Photo: alainlm / Flickr

They represent the three latest attacks on women’s health, safety, and reproductive justice. However, the War on Women has been raging continuously in the 112th Congress. So what else connects these three? They represent the escalating attacks on the health and rights of women of color, and immigrant women in particular — their right to reproductive health care, their access to protections from intimate partner violence and other crimes, and their right to bodily autonomy.

Let’s start with the most recent affront: the Aderholt amendment. Last week, the House of Representatives passed the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act (H.R. 5855), which includes a provision (Aderholt Amendment) that targets immigrant women’s reproductive health care with unnecessary and mean-spirited restrictions on access to abortion. The provision prohibits federal funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to provide abortion care for women in ICE detention centers — adding yet another layer to the harmful restrictions the Hyde amendment already puts in place.

The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), outraged over the politicized attack on some of the most vulnerable women in our society, led an effort to unite over 50 national, state, and local organizations in opposition the provision — a group that includes reproductive health, rights, and justice advocates as well as faith-based groups, advocates for Latinos health, and groups that represent immigrants, refugees, and LGBTQ people.

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House Bill on Violence Would Hand Power to Abusers of Immigrant Women and Allow Criminal Prosecution of Victims

11:38 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Mony Ruiz-Velasco for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center provides legal services under the Violence Against Women Act to hundreds of victims and their children each year. We are appalled at the immigration provisions that the judiciary committee in the House of Representatives passed in HR4970. This bill erodes protections available to immigrant victims.

Photo by epsos.de

Abusers frequently use immigration status as a weapon against their undocumented victims by threatening to have the victim deported or refusing to complete an application for status. A VAWA self-petition allows a victim of violence to apply for lawful status on her own behalf, without relying on her abusive spouse, if she can show that she has been a victim of violence at the hands of her husband who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. HR4970 eliminates important confidentiality protections that are critical to ensure the victims’ safety. Immigration officials would notify abusers that the victim is seeking protection from the abuse. This is particularly dangerous for victims who are still living with their abusers or have children, as many immigrant victims have very limited options to leave an abusive situation until they obtain legal status. To seek protection, the victim will also reveal her whereabouts even if she managed to escape.

In addition, HR4970 would make a major change to how these applications are processed. HR4970 decentralizes the processing of these applications and gives local immigration offices authority to adjudicate VAWA petitions. For many years now, VAWA adjudications are centralized in the Vermont Service Center. Staff in Vermont receive extensive and highly specialized training on domestic violence, sexual assault, and trafficking and are trained to adjudicate petitions filed by victims without re-traumatizing the victims.  Local district offices are ill equipped to handle these highly sensitive cases. Proposed changes in HR4970 are detrimental to immigrant victims.

Finally, HR4970 ignores the dearth of access to legal counsel and language barriers many immigrant victims of violence face and exacts severe punishment for anyone who makes a mistake in the process. HR4970 raises the standard of proof required to succeed in a VAWA application to a standard higher than has been set for asylum applicants. In addition, if the government finds “material misrepresentation” in an application, the victim and her derivatives, including young children, will be permanently barred from all immigration protections, she will also be referred to the FBI for criminal prosecution, and will be removed on an “expedited basis.” Let me repeat: this bill would criminally prosecute victims of violence who make a mistake on their application for protection. To provide further punishment, applicants’ children also would also be permanently barred from immigration benefits, including prosecutorial discretion and deferred action.

Under these circumstances, as an immigration attorney who has handled hundreds of these cases over more than 15 years, I cannot imagine a situation where I would advise a client to apply for protection under VAWA if HR 4970 becomes the law. The risk to their safety would be too great and they would not be able to achieve permanent protection from dangerous abusers, which will be extremely dangerous.

HR4970 is not VAWA – it is an attack on immigrants, women and in particular, women of color. By passing this bill, Congress is abandoning thousands of victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and trafficking and leaving them vulnerable to further abuse and harm.

VAWA Saved My Life. Now House Republicans Are Pushing For Changes That Will Leave Others Like Me Vulnerable

6:16 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Erika Anonymous for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Photo by Tom Godber

My name is Erika.  I came to the United States with my parents when I was six years old and I have been here ever since.

I have lived in fear for most of my life because of my ex-husband. We met as high school freshmen in Chicago. Our relationship was rocky from the beginning and he became more controlling and possessive over the years. But when he joined the Marines after high school, things seemed to change for a while. He apologized for the way he acted and promised to treat me with respect.

After we got married, he became worse than ever. He came home drunk and assaulted me. He would lock me in the house all day when he was at work, even though I was caring for our infant son. When he would come home, he would bring many friends and drink all night. When I told him he needed to stop drinking or I would leave, he shoved me against a wall and swung to punch me. I ducked, so he hit wall instead. When he was deployed to Iraq, he was supposed to put money into a bank account for our family, but he put most of his money in a separate account and left me without access to it. Even though he was making money, because I was undocumented, I was unable to earn money to feed my children and I had to ask my parents to buy us food. After he returned from Iraq, he began having relationships with other women, sometimes in front of me.  Eventually, I reached out for help and I left.

I would have lived in fear my whole life without protection under the Violence Against Women Act. I now have lawful status and a job as an office manager. I can do anything now. I am not afraid that my ex-husband will take my children away from me or have me deported, as he threatened to do before. I have high hopes for the future. I want to go back to school to study culinary arts, and because of VAWA, I can reach for that goal.

But my ex-husband would have done anything in his power to prevent me from getting legal status. He would have lied and denied that he was abusing me. Even as I was going through the application process, he threatened to kill me. If he found out about my VAWA application, I truly believe that he would have acted on his threats. The proposed VAWA bill, which requires immigration officials to interview the abusers, is dangerous. The government cannot let abusers continue to have control. The government is supposed to protect victims. VAWA saved my life, and I hope it is left as it is now so it can continue to save other women in dangerous situations.

The War on Immigrant Women: Part of the Sweeping Crusade Against the Fundamental Rights of All Women

9:00 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Photobucket

Written by Mallika Dutt for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

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.

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 United States, documented and otherwise.

The current attacks on women’s health, sexuality, and self-determination — in states, in GOP debates, on the airwaves, and beyond — are appalling enough. But they are 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. The law 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.

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Public Funding of Family Planning is Essential, Even Under Health Reform

7:06 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Britt Wahlin and Amanda Dennis for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

This week, as we celebrate the first anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, which promises to bring great benefits to women in this country, new threats to women’s health care have emerged. Last month the House of Representatives voted to eliminate federal funding of Planned Parenthood and cut entirely the Title X program, which supports family planning clinics across the country. Though the Senate has since rejected this proposal, House Republicans have vowed to continue to push for these cuts.

Many have spoken out about the harm this would have on low-income women, who rely on Planned Parenthoods and other family planning clinics for important preventive care like contraception and cancer screenings. Even in Massachusetts, where 98 percent of residents have health insurance due to groundbreaking state health reform, such cuts would be devastating.

Massachusetts has a robust network of family planning clinics, Planned Parenthood among them, which offer contraceptive services and counseling, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, and cervical and breast cancer screening on a sliding fee scale. In the wake of Massachusetts reform, family planning clinics continue to play a role in providing services to the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents.

In 2008, a year after Massachusetts’ health reform law took effect, Ibis Reproductive Health and the Massachusetts Department of Health Family Planning Program undertook research to explore the impact of reform on low-income women’s access to contraception. We conducted a survey and interviews with family planning providers and also held focus groups with English- and Spanish-speaking low-income women.

We found that health reform has provided a number of benefits to women and many women expressed relief over finally having insurance.

But our research also uncovered new barriers. … Read more