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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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Criminal Injustice: Arrested and Detained Parents Are Denied Opportunity to Contact and Make Arrangements for Their Children

10:10 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

This article is one in a series published in collaboration with our sister organization, Strong Families.

“Safety and security don’t just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.” – Nelson Mandela

Photobucket If you can, take a minute and imagine a situation where you are arrested or detained for some reason. Now imagine that you have children at home or in school awaiting your arrival but you never show. You are also not given the opportunity to make a phone call to ensure that your children are placed safely in the care of a trusted friend or family member so they are placed in Child Protective Services. This is happening right now to families all over America and it has to stop.

A part of keeping families safe and secure is making sure that in times of misfortune, children and their parents are able to communicate. Some families in America are not given that option. According to the Shattered Families report released late last year by the Applied Research Center (ARC), more than 5,000 children of undocumented people are currently in the foster care system throughout the states because their parent(s) are either in immigration detention or have been deported. Because of the difficulty of coordinating efforts between local law enforcement agencies, county child welfare departments and the Department of Homeland Security, many parents in this situation have not been able to make their own arrangements for their children so that a family member can care for them, and many have even had their parental rights terminated.

This situation is unacceptable and violates the basic human rights and dignities of families in this country. It is inhumane that governments at all levels have allowed this situation to continue without making some simple fixes -– fixes that would ensure that children know that their parents are safe and vice-versa.

AB 2015 – the Calls for Kids Act, sponsored by Forward Together and California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, suggests some simple solutions to this problem. This bill will ask California law enforcement to take responsibility for our village of children and help parents to do their jobs by facilitating additional phone calls for them to arrange care for their children when arrested, as already permitted under the existing law. And it proposes a way for parents to notify their children’s caregiver when they are detained by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in order to prevent the loss of contact that has been experienced by so many families thus far.

This is an issue of importance to us because of the disproportionate rates of incarceration of people of color through the criminal (in)justice system and the rising rates of detentions and deportations by the Department of Homeland Security. Not only are people of color being targeted but now our children are being undeservedly taken away from us because of a lack of implementation of policy and an all-around lack of empathy from law enforcement.

Women and families of color have done our best to provide safety and security of our children. This is our resistance, our determination to raise whole, healthy families in spite of the oppressive circumstances of our lives. Let our collective vision be that all families matter – promote family unity, protect parental rights, prevent children from entering foster care unnecessarily.

Support Calls for Kids by taking action NOW!

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.