“lawless destructive anarchy of invasion”
These are just a few of the derogatory phrases being used to describe women and their children by anti-immigrant state lawmakers this week. A group of anti-immigrant state lawmakers called State Legislators for Legal Immigration (SLLI) held a press conference in D.C. to launch their latest attack on the 14th amendment, and to encourage the newly seated Congress to do the same.
What a way to start the new year?! As our colleague Miriam Yeung of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum put it, “instead of focusing on real problems facing America, it is telling that these lawmakers have made targeting women and babies their first act.”
More than half of all immigrants are women. They are increasingly likely to be primary breadwinners and the family caretakers.
Our own staffer, Danielle Hawkes, attended the press conference and noted the absence of any acknowledgement of the role immigrants have played in our communities, helping to shape the very fabric of America. Instead, it was a show of legislative tricks and scapegoating of vulnerable populations, like Latinos.
Proposing state “fixes” to the Constitution, the group unveiled a template bill they hope states use to re-define who is and isn’t a state citizen. Not surprisingly, anti-immigrant groups propose that those born to immigrants without documentation would not be considered a state citizen (even though federal law under the 14th amendment says otherwise). Recognizing the limits of state legislation to change the Constitution, the group claimed that by introducing a second document, called a state compact, all they would need is the signature of two or more states and the simple consent of Congress to apply this wide sweeping change in the citizenship definition nationwide. (A coalition including the ACLU, MALDEF, and others have already pledged to fight these actions in court and prominent legal scholars doubt that these tactics have any legal merit.)
Every time a press conference like this is held, or an anti-immigrant lawmaker spouts off on cable television, immigrant mothers are vilified and dehumanized. According to Silvia Henriquez, “this destructive message campaign must be challenged and its presence in the national spotlight diminished.”
What does this mean for you as a Latina activist?
Women’s and civil rights’ supporters are mobilizing to make the rights and dignity of immigrant women a top priority in 2011. The voices of women impacted by immigration will continue to grow in strength and influence as these attacks become even more pronounced and the harassment of immigrant families is used for political gain. Join the fight – Follow our work and our campaigns at the National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights.