Today marks the day in which health insurance policies begin to make the transition into no-copay preventive services, a mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Because birth control is a preventive service, this means that along with pap smears and other preventive services, women will begin to experience the full coverage of their birth control as the law requires more and more policies to cover this service with no additional cost to policy-holders. For Latinas, our families, and our communities, this is great news. (more…)
Archive for the ‘Immigration’ Category
Today was a particularly special day for me in Washington, D.C. because I had the privilege to start my internship at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH). As soon as I stepped into the office, I was welcomed by the smiling faces of Natalie, Kimberly, and Elizabeth. I felt the positive energy beaming from these individuals as soon as I arrived and noticed that, like me, they were eagerly awaiting the decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on Arizona’s SB1070 and/or the Affordable Care Act, which many anticipated would come down on that day. The decisions for both of these pieces of legislation would not only affect the lives of many people, but particularly the lives of immigrants and people of color. It is because of this and because of the values that NLIRH upholds that everyone at the office and elsewhere was extremely eager to find out the decision from the Supreme Court in order to continue supporting the Latino/a community in the best ways possible. (more…)
This week, the House of Representatives returns to DC after a weeklong recess, and if recent history is any indication, immigrant women should be watching the chamber very closely. The last several weeks have seen an onslaught of legislative attacks on immigrant women, proving that the dangerous and distracting “War on Women” is now targeting our most marginalized and vulnerable populations.
First, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4970 – a bill which claims to reauthorize the historically bipartisan Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), but actually rolls back protections for immigrant women that have existed for almost 20 years. Then conservative lawmakers tried, but failed, to pass the so-called “Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act” or PRENDA which was engineered as an attack on the reproductive freedoms of women of color. And just before they left DC, Congress found time to pass the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) 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.
Sadly, these sexist, racist, and xenophobic attacks on immigrant women are not confined to Washington, DC. Just last Friday, Arizona Sherrif Joe Arpaio’s office detained a 6-year-old undocumented girl—despite the DHS announcement that same day that young people are to be considered for immediate relief from deportation.
It’s shameless. The good news? Women’s health, reproductive justice, and immigrants’ rights advocates are fighting back, and making our voices heard across the country. National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights (NCIWR) Steering Committee members National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) and National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) were joined by over 50 national, state, and local organizations in standing with immigrant women and opposing the Aderholt Amendment, and the outpouring of solidarity was remarkable. Now we’re ready to take it to the next level.
Here are five ways you can participate:
- Sign the letter: Join the growing coalition of local, state, and national groups who stand with immigrant women and oppose the Aderholt amendment and other attacks on immigrant women’s health. Email email@example.com to add your organization to the list.
- Participate in our Tweet Chat: Join us TODAY from 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm ET (12:00 pm – 1:30 pm PT) on Wednesday June 20 and use the hashtag #Health4ImmigrantWomen to ask questions, share stories from your community, amplify your work, and collaborate with others. We’ll be on hand to answer questions and help to make connections.
- Send an action alert: Share this action alert with your listervs and networks.
- Write a blog post: Write a quick post on your blog anytime between June 20-25 about why you stand with immigrant women and why immigrant women’s health matters.
- Join NCIWR: Review our principles here and fill out the form to apply for membership.
For the past six months, I’ve been coming to terms with my decision to leave the United States and return to Mexico. Because while I am incredibly grateful and feel very fortunate to have had the experience of living in the United States because of the ways in which it allowed me to conceptualize in previously unimaginable ways a more progressive future and to genuinely believe in the possibility of a more respectful, interdependent and conscious world, there came a point when my eyes were opened to the myth behind the surreal American dream. But every so often, politics like to shake me up.
In the last five years, I’ve been sheltered and nurtured by an incredibly progressive circle of friends and allies who’ve fed fuel to the fire of my ideals, people who believe like me that the stigma and criminalization of marginalized populations is ill-intentioned, out of focus, and counterproductive to the fabric of society. People who understand that through proper support founded on a culture of genuine concern and understanding, an individual’s infinite potential can be garnered and society can thus develop in a sustainable manner that respects and addresses the needs of all its constituents. Yet the reality I’ve lived in the United States is the ultimate contradiction to my ideals. My place here in society, which I like to metaphorically see as being at the top of the bottom of a totem pole, is something I am constantly reminded of. Real and dehumanizing challenges constantly arise because I am undocumented, but I am also aware that the privilege of graduating from Columbia affords me a much more comfortable place in society than many other people, particularly individuals within my community.
Yet I now know not to get comfortable, and not to let my guard down, even as some of my obstacles seem to have dissipated and my dreams have come closer to fruition, because as this has happened, my immediate family has had its stability uprooted, dispersing throughout the United States in an attempt to escape the persecution of e-verify, 287g and Secure Communities. My mother and I have had sleepless nights where we had to mobilize and take immediate action in response to each of my brothers getting arrested, to prevent them being identified by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, nights during which it became painfully real that to be an undocumented woman of color is a privilege compared to the experience my brother’s face on a daily basis, simply because as a woman, though I may be racially profiled, that does not come with the additional perception of a threat, thus producing unwarranted police involvement.
While I’d like to shout for joy at this announcement of “Deferred Action Process for Young People Who Are Low Enforcement Priorities,” which seems beamed down from an enlightened source, I’m hesitant. Perhaps because after eight years of activism within this particular movement, I’m used to the disappointment and broken promises that have rained down from politicians, from a very close call for the Federal DREAM Act at the end of 2010 to last summer’s Morton Memo, which ultimately proved to be a worthless appeasement. Had the Morton Memo held fast to its promises, there would be no DREAM Act-eligible youth facing deportation proceedings today.
Right now to me, this seems like little more than a political ploy by a president seeking re-election who’s faced increasing pressure from undocumented youth to do something, pressure which ultimately resulted in various of his campaign offices shutting down after they were occupied by undocumented activists who resolved not to leave unless an executive order were to be issued or they were arrested. These pressures in a sense forced Obama to do the right thing. And for that I’m touched, because as I watched his remarks on this new announcement, I realized that he thoroughly understands what it means to feel morally obliged, to do the “right thing”, even as ignorance bombards, as made obvious by the reporter attempting to argue with the president.
But I cannot say that the president has regained my trust, or that this announcement has sparked hope. Buckling under pressure is not a sign of strength. What has sparked hope and garnered my unconditional support and confidence is the work of undocumented youth the country over who have dropped the fear and claimed their value, giving a megaphonic voice where before there was an eerie silence gripping the undocumented community. To them, and to organizations such as NLIRH which value and understand the struggle of marginalization and overcoming fear, I am eternally grateful. Through their leadership and examples of strength, I’ve found my voice, and it’s liberating. Hopefully this announcement is genuine and the voice of undocumented individuals continues to get louder. However, it takes an understanding and strong recognition that this is not the time to rest or preemptively celebrate. We still have much, much work to do.
- Rosario Quiroz, DREAMer and NLIRH Community Mobilization Fellow
This morning, the Obama administration announced that it would stop deporting and begin granting work permits to students and young people.
Under the plan, students and young people will be spared deportation if they were brought to the United States before the age of 16 and are younger than 30 as of today; they’ve been in the country for at least five years continuously; have no criminal history; and have graduated from a U.S. high school, earned a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the military. The work permits will be good for two years, with no limits on how many times they may be renewed.
This is a big victory for DREAMers, who have been building a growing and brave movement of coming out as undocumented and unafraid to fight for their right to stay in this country. The opportunity for young people to finally be able to live their lives without fear of separation from their families, friends, and for many, the only place they realistically call home, is finally a reality, and that is a big deal.
However, this is certainly not the end. The guidance provides no path to citizenship. Therefore, Congress must follow the Administration lead and pass the DREAM Act.
There is a real human toll to the broken immigration system. Educational attainment is one way that Latinas can have access to information, resources, and services that will help them make informed and autonomous decisions. In short, the DREAM Act would allow youth who have grown up in the United States to step out of the shadows, become citizens, pursue education, and accomplish their goals.
The DREAM Act has a tough road to passage even though it has a wide band of support from the business community, the labor community, military leaders, teachers, principals, state and local government officials, and community leaders. Passage of the DREAM Act would be a tremendous accomplishment for the millions of Latinas that we represent. That’s why we fight for the equality, dignity, and human rights of immigrant women. NLIRH will also continue to work with the Administration and lawmakers to strengthen and support this bill.
Also, any day, the Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision on one of the most extreme anti-immigrant laws in the country. This is a reminder that until we have comprehensive reform, many people in our community remain precariously vulnerable to our flawed immigration policy and enforcement mechanisms.
The fight is not over. We have so much work left to do, but we cannot underestimate the brave actions of the DREAMers and this this victory. We owe a lot to the brave young undocumented folks who risked so much for social justice. We are not quite there yet, but we are closer. Thank you, DREAMers!
For more information about NLIRH’s work to advance the rights of immigrant women or our leadership on the National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights, please visit the NCIWR website.
As we join the call for Paycheck Fairness, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) recognizes that in the fight to achieve economic justice for all women, we must recognize, elevate, and address the unique challenges faced by Latinas and immigrant women.
According to the White House Council on Women and Girls, women make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns through employment. Yet, for Latinas, this rate is 56 cents on the dollar, which represents the largest wage gap of any other group of working women. What accounts for this widened disparity between men and Latinas, and between white women and Latinas? We know that although Latinas comprise the fastest growing community of color, more than a third do not graduate high school. Latinas experience the highest level of poverty among women in the labor force at 12.1% and have the lowest employment-to-population ratio of women of all racial and ethnic groups. Furthermore, the recession hit Latinas particularly hard as unemployment rates more than doubled for Latinas in the years between 2007 and 2010. Immigrant women and Latinas with limited English proficiency not only face systematic bars on their participation in the labor force, but also discrimination, prejudice, and bias from employers. Latina farmworkers face horrific levels of sexual violence, sexual harassment, and retaliation for reporting abuses from their employers. These factors account for the fact that Latinas are overly represented in low-wage sectors, working at jobs that provide few-to-no benefits like health insurance, paid vacation, and maternity or family leave.
We know that these pay inequities impact Latinas’ access to reproductive health care. Latinas compose the ethnic/racial group with the highest level of health care un-insurance, as they are less likely to have employer-sponsored coverage or to afford costly individual plans. And despite the enormous gains under the Affordable Care Act, or health reform law, undocumented individuals will be barred from purchasing health plans on the state health insurance exchanges and remain ineligible for Medicaid. The federally-imposed 5-year bar on legal permanent residents from accessing benefits under Medicaid blocks Latinas’ access to reproductive and sexual health care, including contraception and important preventive care such as Pap tests – and did we mention that Latinas have the highest incidence of cervical cancer of women of all racial/ethnic groups? On top of this, federal funding bans on abortion care make abortion just as inaccessible as if it were illegal for far too many Latinas.
And while NLIRH celebrates and supports the advances called for in the federal Paycheck Fairness Act, introduced to the House of Representatives by Representative Rosa DeLauro (CO-3) and in the Senate by Senator Barbara Mikulski (MD), we view this legislation as part of a comprehensive solution to economic justice for all women, including Latinas. Utilizing a comprehensive approach means addressing injustice in immigration, health care, education, and employment to reverse the culture of devaluing Latina labor. In recent years, a wave of political and policy developments in states are, instead of seeking to address the wage gap between Latinas and other groups, actively limiting Latinas’ opportunities for a quality education, optimum participation in the workforce, and the comprehensive, quality, and affordable reproductive health care needed to plan their families and their participation in the workforce.
Let’s briefly look at two states- Arizona and Alabama – where the wage rate for Latinas is 53 cents and 41 cents, respectively, for every dollar a white man earns working full-time year-round. Instead of working to elevate the economic status of Latino families, the political classes in Arizona and Alabama have embarked on a radical anti-immigrant agenda aimed directly at limiting the employment and educational opportunities of immigrant and Latino families. HB56, enacted in Alabama in 2011, requires public school boards to attain the immigration status of newly enrolling children and their parents. Section 8 of this law forbids undocumented students from attending public universities and colleges and from receiving financial assistance. And despite the recent special legislative session called by Governor Robert Bentley to address concerns in HB 56, the changes actually tack on more dangerous provisions. Both HB56 and Arizona’s SB1070 forbid employers from hiring undocumented workers, and both work to create a culture of fear and discrimination against those without papers.
At the same time, the two states in our case study here, Arizona and Alabama, have embarked on a dangerous anti-abortion and anti-family planning agenda. In both Arizona and Alabama, 20-week abortion bans disproportionately impact low-income women, including Latinas, who face numerous barriers to full information about their pregnancies, and for whom financial, geographic, and other challenges delay the process of attaining abortion care. Arizona has also put in place a race- and sex-selective abortion ban which appropriates the language of civil rights and gender equity to target the reproductive freedom of women of color. Oh yeah, and in Arizona, you are apparently pregnant two weeks before conception, so this combined with the 20-week abortion ban puts abortion care out of reach for even more Latinas.
Beyond abortion, we are seeing attacks on access to contraception and family planning programs. In Arizona, Governor Jan Brewer signed into law a bill that permits “religiously-affiliated” employers to refuse to include contraception in employee health plans, a form of discrimination that intersects directly with reproductive and economic justice. And this only scratches the surface in terms of the amount roll-backs to reproductive health care access we are seeing in these and other states.
Here at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, we view the attacks on immigrant families and reproductive health as working hand-in-hand to diminish Latina opportunity. Because the question begs being asked, how can Latinas achieve their economic potential when they cannot attend university or work legally? How can Latinas fully participate in the labor force and provide for their families without the ability to space and plan their pregnancies? How can Latinas acheive equality of opportunity in the United States without equal access to health care?
Despite the enormous challenges, Latinas across the country are mobilizing for reproductive justice. Our Latina Advocacy Network in Texas is fighting against dramatic cuts to the Texas Women’s Health Program, a program which has been central to their ability access needed breast and cervical cancer screenings. Our Latina Advocacy Network in Miami is mobilizing to build broad coalitions bridging reproductive justice to other social justice work. Our Latina Advocacy Network in New York recognizes that passage of the DREAM Act, and the ability for undocumented immigrants to attain higher education, is central to the fight for reproductive justice. NLIRH is also an advisory board member of We Belong Together, a coalition united for children and families, which participated in a delegation to Alabama to bear witness to the impact of HB 56 on the lives of Alabama’s families. And through ¡Soy Poderosa!/ I am Powerful!, NLIRH’s civic engagement campaign, we will ignite the political power of all Latinas to advance health, dignity, and reproductive justice.
Together, we can make inroads in the fight for economic and paycheck fairness. However, this work must be intersectional, comprehensive, and take into account the lived experiences of all women, including Latinas. As we work to pass the important Paycheck Fairness Act, let’s also mobilize communities for immigrant rights, reduce barriers to quality and affordable health care, expand opportunities for education and job training, and last, but certainly not least, ensure that all women, including Latinas, have access to quality and affordable reproductive health care.
A report released yesterday by Human Rights Watch, Cultivating Fear, describes how deeply vulnerable immigrant farm worker women are to sexual harassment and assault:
This 95-page report describes rape, stalking, unwanted touching, exhibitionism, or vulgar and obscene language by supervisors, employers, and others in positions of power. Most farmworkers interviewed said they had experienced such treatment or knew others who had. And most said they had not reported these or other workplace abuses, fearing reprisals. Those who had filed sexual harassment claims or reported sexual assault to the police had done so with the encouragement and assistance of survivor advocates or attorneys in the face of difficult challenges.
The report is full of horrifying – if unsurprising for those of us who have worked with farm worker women – stories of assault, and repeated abuse at the hands of employers or people in positions of power on the job, often using their immigration status as a tool of control and abuse. Additionally, farm workers often depend on their employers not only for their jobs but also their housing and transportation, creating a number of opportunities for abuse and control for vulnerable women.
In the last few days leading up to mama’s day, I have been so touched by the all the amazing efforts put into a mothers day that reflects the realities of our lives, and not just a commercial extravaganza celebrating a very narrow motherhood ideal.
NLIRH is so proud to be part of the Strong Families initiative, and the Mamas Day cards Strong Families has put out are a beautiful set reflecting the experiences of many kinds of mamas that are often invisible in greeting card aisles: queer and trans mamas, disabled mamas, activist mamas, young mamas, immigrant mamas…they celebrate motherhood not as a vague ideal, but as the way mamas across our communities live: as real people, with complex and rich identities. Go over and send an important mama in your life a card!
And while you’re at it, let’s send the president a little something in the name of immigrant mamas everywhere. The imagery and commercialism of the day often reinforces ideas of race, class, citizenship, sexuality, and marital status that we seek to redefine and break open. Add your voice to push back against dehumanizing messages and images of motherhood and mothering that do not reflect the reality of our lives. Tell the President that separating mamas from their families is wrong, and will not solve any of our national crises.
¡Feliz día de las madres!
Today, President Barack Obama stated in a televised interview that he believes that same-sex marriage should be legal:
“At a certain point, I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” Mr. Obama told ABC News in an interview that came after the president faced mounting pressure to clarify his position.
This is a historic moment – it is the first time that a sitting U.S. president has stated a position in favor of marriage equality.
So how does this affect the lived reality of LGBTQ Latin@s? Well not too much, yet. Though this affirmation does not have any legal effect just yet – neither the Supreme Court nor Congress seem in a rush to overturn DOMA – this “evolving” of the president’s position does indicate the increasing visibility of LGBT advocacy in the last few years, and places the President in a position to do something about making that change.
When same-sex marriage does become a reality at a national level, there will surely be benefits for LGBTQ Latin@ communities. For one, LGBTQ immigrants with U.S.-citizen partners will have the option to be petitioned for permanent residency and citizenship, in the same way that straight people are able to do currently. This would be huge for the vast number of bi-national couples who face separation or having to leave the U.S. to be together. The Uniting America Families Act – a proposed measure that would allow U.S. citizens to petition same-sex partners for citizenship – also addresses this issue for bi-national same-sex couples and has been part of NLIRH’s policy priorities, but federal marriage equality would solve this issue altogether.
Although this is a step in the right direction, legalizing same-sex marriage does not even begin to scratch the surface of the social justice issues that LGBTQ Latin@s face today. LGBTQ immigrants face numerous barriers that marriage simply does not touch, and strategies that require immigrants to couple with U.S.-nationals for citizenship will only affect a small portion of the LGBTQ immigrant community. And though legalizing same-sex marriage may mean that some LGBTQ Latin@s will be able to share their partners’ health benefits, it will not create health benefits for couples in which neither party is insured. We envision a world in which everyone has access to care and in which everyone has the right to live and work in the communities they choose, regardless of marital status. Marriage equality will create these conditions for some, but will leave many LGBTQ Latin@s with these problems unresolved.
It is a good day for LGBTQ people today, but we must not envision marriage equality as the end. Only an end to inequity can bring reproductive justice for all!
For day 3 of the Health Equity Can’t Wait! blog carnival, we’ve teamed up with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to write about LGBTQ and Latin@ health, making clear the importance of an intersectional analysis and advocacy:
We will never fully understand the struggle of someone trying to access an abortion if we do not also know how being a transgender man of color has affected his experience. We cannot know an immigrant’s struggle to access culturally competent and affordable health care if we do not think about how being queer has affected where she feels safe. If we do not look at the intersections, we paint an incomplete picture and we fail to see the very real ways that multiple marginalized identities play out in people’s lives.
Check out the whole piece over at the Task Force blog!