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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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Immigrant Women Should Not Have to Wait Years to Access Health Care

1:20 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

Stethoscope

Immigrant women face long wait times for medical care.

Most people hate waiting. We complain about lines or being put on hold. Right now, some politicians are looking to make immigrant women and their families wait to gain access to health care—a truly cruel thing on which to make someone wait. A provision included in an immigration reform bill could keep immigrant women from accessing essential health services for up to 15 years.

Specifically, the immigration reform bill that passed through the Senate includes language that bars an immigrant woman who is working to obtain citizenship from utilizing means-tested federal benefits like Medicaid for a minimum of ten years. She will also face a five-year delay under the current law if she does not naturalize as soon as possible, after the initial ten-year period.

The five-year waiting period was imposed on permanent, legal residents as an inclusion to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for benefits like Medicaid. Given that the goal of the Medicaid program is to reduce financial barriers to essential health care for low-income families, this limitation affects those who already face tremendous obstacles to quality health-care services and do not have the ability to pay for care out-of-pocket.

Current policies will also make immigrant women ineligible for premium tax credits and subsidies to facilitate participation in the state health insurance marketplaces that are being established under the ACA. This places private health insurance plans out of reach for many families. All this means that an immigrant woman may have to wait up to 15 years—or more—before she can access affordable health coverage options.

Delayed access to preventive care like mammograms and Pap tests could be the difference between life and death for all women, including immigrant women. Lack of routine testing could mean that an undetected, untreated sexually transmitted infection could cause infertility. Holding back access to health services could have a dramatic effect on the health of individual women, their families, and their communities.

This kind of punitive, restrictive policy-making on the backs of women is all too familiar to many reproductive health advocates. Whether it is legislation that literally imposes a waiting period to delay a woman who is seeking abortion care or barring public hospitals from making agreements with abortion clinics to accept their patients in emergencies, we are used to seeing political games played with women’s health.

Hundreds of laws have been introduced in recent years with the goal of making it harder to get an abortion or closing clinics to shut off availability of care. With fewer providers, women are often forced to travel long distances to seek care; a recent Guttmacher Institute report estimates that in 2008, 16 percent of women traveled 25 to 49 miles, 11 percent traveled 50 to 100 miles, and 6 percent traveled more than 100 miles. This presents a particularly burdensome hardship for low-income women who may not have a car or be able to take time off from their job to travel. These restrictions also make abortion care more expensive by adding the cost of travel or child care or putting up so many extra hurdles that a woman is pushed later into pregnancy, when a procedure may be more complicated and costly.

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Rethinking Immigration: Moms Will Do Whatever it Takes to Protect Their Kids

1:24 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

immigration rally

Immigration Rally

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

Cross-posted with permission from the National Immigrant Justice Center blog.

Congress needs to understand something important as it works to pass a new immigration law: Neither a border nor even the threat of detention can keep a determined parent from trying to reach a child who needs her care.

To ignore this fact, when we have the opportunity to create an immigration system that truly meets the needs of our families and communities, would not only be a lost opportunity for good public policymaking, but also would put countless lives at risk.

I have spent the majority of my career working with immigrant victims of domestic abuse. Although it can be challenging, it has proven to be extremely rewarding and fulfilling work. For more than a decade, I have had the privilege to work with men, women, and children who have taught me how to persevere.

Harsh Laws Undermine Critical Victim Protections

Fortunately, in most of the cases I see, something can be done. I often can assist my clients with filing self-petitions under the Violence Against Women Act based on domestic abuse, or applying for U Visas based on being crime victims, or at the very least can refer them to counseling services and assistance to obtain orders of protection. I have learned to appreciate the many small steps it takes a person to move from a life of abuse, victimization, and dependence to a life of freedom and security. It is not easy, and dealing with the complex bureaucratic immigration system is a burden that often takes a backseat to the more urgent issues of personal safety, survival, and escaping abuse.

Despite progress in our laws to protect victims of domestic violence, the U.S. government’s focus on harsh enforcement practices and rollback of basic due process protections — including the chance to see a judge before being deported — have led to victims being denied true security. Deportation can be life-threatening for people who are forced to return to countries where they will not be protected from domestic violence, or for the children they leave behind in precarious situations in the United States. Deportation can mean death.

When Carmela’s* case came to me, she had recently been released from immigration detention. As a child, she was abused by her parents and older siblings. The abusive home life led her to get married at a very young age, but her husband also became abusive. Carmela fled her husband’s abuse and came to the United States. She eventually married again in the United States, only to be victimized again.

In 1995, an immigration judge granted Carmela voluntary departure. She left the United States to comply with the judge’s order. Unfortunately, the attorney she had at the time did not submit the appropriate paperwork so that the U.S. government would know that she complied with the departure order. Thus, her voluntary departure, which would have allowed her potentially to return to the U.S. lawfully at any time, turned into a deportation order, which permanently barred her from lawfully returning to the United States.

Carmela’s Struggle to Be Near Her Children

Carmela’s abusive husband insisted that she return to the United States and arranged for her to return unlawfully. Carmela felt desperate, as if she had no other choice, because she needed to care for her children. She returned to the United States, only to again be caught by immigration officials, detained, and subject to reinstatement of her deportation order. Even after she was deported, the abusive cycle continued and Carmela’s husband once again arranged for her to return to the United States unlawfully.

Carmela eventually was able to leave her abusive relationship, but without legal immigration status, it has been difficult to provide financially for her family. Her 17-year-old daughter Magaly is an excellent student who has lived in the United States since she was one. Magaly is applying for temporary protection from deportation under the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Carmela also has helped to raise an “adopted” U.S. citizen daughter. Another daughter, Ariana, has become a naturalized U.S. citizen and begun a family of her own.

After a car accident in 2012, a police officer arrested Carmela and transferred her to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody. She was detained for three months, during which Magaly was left without her mother. Current immigration law denies Carmela a hearing in front of an immigration judge because of her prior deportation order. NIJC has helped Carmela file two applications for a stay of removal and a request for prosecutorial discretion, since she easily falls into what the Obama administration has designated as “low priority” for deportation.

However, with her prior removal order, Carmela does not qualify for any long-term immigration relief. If Carmela were able to qualify for permanent legal status, she would be able to solidify the roots she has established in her community, with her family. Carmela and Magaly would not be afraid that ICE could show up at their doorstep any day and take Carmela into custody again. Magaly would have the opportunity to become a permanent resident and be able to pursue dreams of a college education after she graduates from high school this year. Instead, the family lives in fear that Carmela can be deported any day.

Laws Should Protect, Not Punish, Families

Congress needs to rebuild our immigration system so that it includes people like Carmela and Magaly. Carmela should not be punished for returning to the United States to care for her children. She should be afforded a hearing in front of an immigration judge and an opportunity to share her story. She should not have to fear returning to immigration detention. She is not a criminal or a flight risk. Rather, she is a mother and a provider. She should be allowed to stay in the United States and obtain long-term immigration status to build a life with her family, free from abuse and fear.

And if my argument is not persuasive enough, read Magaly’s own words from her DACA work authorization application, where she tells the U.S. government why she wants a chance for her family to build a future in the United States:

 photo magaly_zps5180b5b3.jpg

*All names have been changed

Photo by Loretta Principe released under Creative Commons License

Passing the DREAM Act Would Acknowledge the Human Rights of Migrant Children and Benefit All of Us

8:19 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

Two DREAM activists

November 6th was a good day for human rights, at least in Maryland. Not only did the state’s voters support same-sex marriage, they also voted in favor of expanding access to higher education for all of Maryland’s students, regardless of their immigration status.

While the Maryland ballot initiative on education is great for young migrants in that state, it highlights the fact that federal action is sorely needed to protect the human rights and dignity of migrants everywhere.

There is some good news. In June this year, President Obama signed an executive order preventing the Department of Homeland Security from deporting undocumented immigrants under 30 who came to the United States before they were 16 years old, and who fulfill a number of other criteria regarding their moral standing and education.

However, while this change rightly was hailed as a positive development for hundreds of thousands of young people, it does not overcome the need for legislative action — President Obama himself called it a “stop-gap” measure. In fact, it is now more than decade since a bipartisan initiative proposing similar benefits first was introduced in the Senate under the title “Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.”

The idea behind the original bill — and the various versions of it introduced over the years — was to open the possibility for higher education and ultimately citizenship for noncitizen children of good moral character, regardless of their immigration status.

And the idea is solid. The individuals potentially covered by these bills are already a positive part of their communities, and many know no other home than the United States. They are, for all intents and purposes, Americans in everything but paperwork. Moreover, maintaining the documentary limbo many of them are in does nothing but make it more difficult for them to pay tax, improve their education, or otherwise contribute constructively to society. In other words: refusing to regularize the status of undocumented children risks turning them into the pariahs they never were.

However, since the first DREAM Act was introduced in 2001, and despite the passage of a version of the bill in the House of Representatives in 2010, no final legislation has been approved by both houses. Arguments that the bill would foster illegal immigration or potentially shield gang members do not bear out in reality. For starters, the bill explicitly seeks to exclude those with a criminal background and applies equally to documented and undocumented aliens. Also, from a pragmatic perspective, most people migrate because they can’t provide for their families at home, not because they think they can “pull one over” on their host country. The lack of DREAM Act-like legislation does not make foreign-born children magically disappear or “self-deport.” Rather, it prevents them from fulfilling their potential as participants in society, thus becoming more of a burden than they otherwise would have been: a lose-lose situation if ever there was one.

But even more importantly, education is a human right. Numerous international human rights bodies have repeatedly clarified that states must protect the human rights of those living in their territory, regardless of their legal status. Certainly, states can and must independently determine their immigration and access policies, but they cannot decide whether any one individual has rights: we all do.

Up until this week, 11 states had already adopted their own versions of the DREAM Act, including California, Texas, and New York, all states with large and rapidly growing foreign-born populations. It is telling that states with large immigrant populations know that providing immigrant children with access to higher education only can be beneficial to everyone.

The ballot initiative approved in Maryland this week sends a powerful message to Congress that states are willing to provide, piecemeal, what the federal government should be providing, wholesale. It also underlines the uneven nature of legal protections for immigrants until federal law is passed, especially because immigration generally remains under federal purview. Hopefully, passing a federal DREAM Act is a priority item on the agenda of the new Congress.

Photo by Connie Ma under a Creative Commons Share Alike license on Flickr

Who is a “Criminal?” Exclusion of Vulnerable Groups from International AIDS Conference Nothing to Celebrate

11:35 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

Part of RH Reality Check’s coverage of the International AIDS Conference, 2012.

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As the International AIDS Conference ended in Washington D.C. this week, rumor has it that the lead organizer invited participants to celebrate the fact that “criminals” had been kept out of the conference. This with reference to the fact that sex workers and those convicted for drug crimes were prevented by current law from obtaining visas for the gathering.

Setting aside for a moment the insanity of excluding the voices of two groups very much affected by the HIV epidemic in general and by misdirected prevention policies in particular, and regardless of whether the rumors are true, we can use this opportunity to reflect on the definition, use, and potentially manipulative power of criminal laws and policies.

For starters, our concept of what is criminal is relative and fluid at best. When I did research on access to abortion for rape victims in Mexico in 2006 and 2007, I was shocked to learn that child victims of incest were considered criminals in many jurisdictions. Meanwhile, rapists could escape the label by marrying their victim, a relatively common provision in several other countries too, including Cameroon and Brazil. This notion of incest victims as criminals and rapists as…not criminals, illustrates the fluidity of the concept.

Sex workers too are not always breaking the law. In some jurisdictions, such as Canada until very recently, sex workers can avoid criminal sanctions by doing only out-calls or by working alone — conditions that tend to render their work more dangerous. In other jurisdictions, such as for example Nevada and New Zealand, sex work is generally legal, subject to regulation.

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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.

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

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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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Arizona’s Immigration Policies: Racism and Collective Hypocrisy

8:13 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Aziza Ahmed for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Arizona’s Governor Brewer is on a roll with anti-immigrant law-making. Under S.B. 1070 racial profiling may worsen (or be more easily justified) and with H.B. 2281 schools could justify not teaching students about a variety of historical injustices if these lessons could be understood to “promote resentment” towards a particular race or class. Not only are the courses under attack, but the teachers as well: the Arizona Department of Education has begun a process to remove teachers with accents from classrooms.  

Hatred towards immigrants is masked in a variety of discourses: “national security”,  “border security”, “high unemployment”, or if you are Pat Buchanan it is disguised in the subtle subtitle of your book “State of Emergency: the Third World Invasion and Conquest of America.”  Okay, so maybe it is not hidden at all.  In fact, alongside the current debates in Arizona, one of the more obvious examples of our disregard for immigrants (particularly undocumented immigrants) was President Obama’s health care reform speech of September 2009. It was at the precise moment President Obama was reassuring us that undocumented immigrants would be left without healthcare that Representative Wilson shouted, “You lie!”  And then everyone got mad.  For good reason of course, because aside from Representative Wilson’s outlandish and disrespectful behavior – Obama was telling the truth: we had all agreed to deny undocumented immigrants healthcare.

Of course, this anti-immigrant sentiment emanates from all sides of the debate and manifests in horrific ways for many.  Take for example the shocking case of Miriam Mendiola-Martinez shackled to her hospital bed after giving birth because she was undocumented and in police custody. Amnesty International has documented the impact of racism on immigrant women negatively affecting safe childbirth and delivery.  In addition to racism, a fear of authorities, an inability to speak English, and inability to navigate the health care system by immigrants also served to lessen women’s abilities to receive adequate health careIn 2003 the Committee on Understanding and Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care highlighted discrimination as a key factor in racial and ethnic health disparities.

Who is Governor Brewer’s staunchest supporter in this anti-immigrant frenzy? None other than Sarah Palin –this time attacking immigrants only a few short months after admitting to crossing the border into Canada for health care.  Brewer and Palin even have a website which offers oddly pieced together facts and statistics alongside a seemingly amateur YouTube video about the need for border security.  Their law, the website proclaims, is being misrepresented and unfairly attacked.  However, while Arizona’s laws are rightly under fire for their racist underpinnings, there seems to be a convenient collective amnesia on the side of those claiming a moral upper hand in this argument (the less racist hand, the more accepting hand).  After all, didn’t everyone just finish agreeing (compromising) that there are some things that immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, just shouldn’t have some of – like healthcare?

It’s possible that at the end of this odd debate consisting of forgotten hypocrisy and poorly made websites helpful information may emerge.  I mean, maybe Sarah Palin has some tips on getting the more than 11 million undocumented people that have little to no healthcare access in the United States into Canada legally for healthcare?  It was her own family’s solution after all. Perhaps that’s a project for the Brewer-Palin amateur video production team?  I bet that one would go viral.