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Archive for the ‘Immigration’ Category

We’ve been following the case of Juana Villegas since the beginning. Just over a week after she gave birth, shackled, while in in jail due to her immigration status, we covered it here on Nuestra Vida, Nuestra Voz as an all-too-real example of the ways that immigration enforcement tactics hurt immigrant women and families. Shortly afterward, the New York Times covered Juana’s story, and it became a prominent if all-too-common reminder of the importance of considering gender in immigration advocacy.

I am incredibly happy to hear that last week, a judge in Nashville awarded Juana $1.1 milion to cover her attorney’s fees and other expenses during the three-year ordeal of lawsuits and appeals. Most importantly, the judge also certified a U-visa – a visa category that is available to undocumented victims of crime who may fear reporting them for fear of deportation. While this certainly does not represent justice – in a just world, this would never have happened in the first place – it is certainly positive that a court has recognized that Juana’s rights have been violated.

Of course, this is just one of many cases, most of which never make it to the media’s attention. With immigration enforcement programs such as Secure Communities taking hold across the U.S. and states taking immigration enforcement into their own hands, there is still much work to do.

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Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit published an opinion regarding self-induced abortions.  Idaho mother Jennie McCormack was charged with committing an “unlawful abortion” when she terminated her pregnancy by ordering RU-486 over the web.  McCormack is a single mother of three, was raised as a devout Mormon, and was barely scrapping by.  An abortion would have cost at least $500 and involved multiple trips to a clinic hours away, so she turned to the Internet.  As a result of deciding what was best for her family, she was prosecuted in Idaho under a myriad of laws that included a pre Roe law that criminalized women getting abortions and another that criminalized individuals other than physicians for performing abortions, and during her case, the prosecutor stated that “he was aghast at the idea that McCormack, an unmarried mother of three, was irresponsibly and repeatedly getting pregnant and not ‘protecting the fetus.’”

The Court of Appeals upheld the U.S. District Court for Idaho’s decision that McCormack could not be prosecuted because she was likely to succeed on her constitutional argument that Idaho’s criminal abortion laws enabled the prosecution and incarceration of women who have abortions.  The Court relied heavily on the arguments that McCormack’s attorney and the National Advocates for Pregnant Women and their allies made in issuing their ruling.  The Court ruled that women cannot be charged under “physician only” criminal statutes regarding abortion even if the law does not specifically say so, stating, “[T]here is no Supreme Court precedent that recognizes or suggests that third party criminal liability may extend to pregnant women who obtain an abortion in a manner inconsistent with state abortion statutes.”  Additionally, the Court emphasized the herculean obstacles that low-income women confront when accessing an abortion such as lack of providers, financial barriers, and harassment at clinics, and the medical, moral, and ethical factors women must weigh when making decisions about pregnancies.

The Latina Institute is thrilled that National Advocates for Pregnant Women and their partners, particularly McCormack’s attorney, successfully defeated Idaho’s attempt to criminalize women who are making wise decisions for their families.  However, as advocates for women’s health, including the right and access to have a safe abortion, we know that there will be other cases like this one.  In the future, it may be a Latina who is prosecuted under these laws.  Due to issues such as cultural and linguistic competency, geographic location, transportation, income, and lack of information, Latina women and others may turn to self-induced abortions.  In fact, we know that Latinas have needed to self induce abortions for the reasons stated above.   The laws on the books need to realistically support and protect the decisions women make about their pregnancies.  We don’t need laws that further erode, humiliate, and deny women the ability to make the right choices for themselves and their families.

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After various conference calls, meetings and emails, our annual Week of Action took place from August 6-10 with the theme Soy Poderosa. Activists from all over the country took pictures of themselves with our poderosa signs filled with messages of strength, support and love. There were events held in various areas of the country to advocate for the reproductive health and justice of Latinas.

Activist says why she is a poderosa

Ms. New York says why she is a poderosa

We were able to reach thousands of poderosas through our blog, Facebook, twitter and email lists as well as through our Latina Advocacy Networks, who tabled and hosted several health fairs in different parts of their states. Latinas are fired up and willing to continue pressuring their governors until the Affordable Care Act is implemented in their states. Latinas will keep educating the community and providing support to Latinas all around the United States, like these activists in Texas who held over 5 health fairs in different areas.

Activists in Texas hold health fairs

Karen Guzman, our policy intern, at a briefing in DC

Actions like the ones that took place during this Week of Action are important in order to highlight the stories of those most affected by the lack of health resources. Many times, we drown in reproductive health statistics without realizing that these numbers are actual people, someone’s mother, daughter, sister or aunt. It is important to take back our stories and own our struggles. By telling sharing those struggles, we build a sense of community and unity with others who may not know you, but share your same values and ideas. It is important, not only to share our stories but to know our rights as well. Adahelia, one of our activists from New York, shares similar ideas, and has the following message for Latinas everywhere:

“Know your rights, all of them, from human, woman, immigrant, resident to citizen rights. Remember that being ignorant limits you and the decisions you make in regards to the different aspects of your entire life, not just your physical and emotional health. We must take responsibility over our own body and knowing our rights will have a huge impact on our lives. When we are educated and informed, it does not only affect us, but it also impacts the lives of our family, friends, partners and children.”

We want to thank all the poderosas who took part in our Week of Action by sending pictures, flyering on campus or simply writing a blog post, your courage and dedication is what keeps us motivated. Even though the Week of Action is over, the energy and need for relief is still present. We hope you can join us and be a part of the actions that are happening next. To stay up to date visit our website and sign up for updates.

In the struggle,

The NLIRH Community Mobilization Team

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Every time I hear the word poderosa or powerful, a particular experience in my life strikes me immediately. The details are all incredibly vivid and I begin to remember this particular moment that completely changed my life. I was 18 years old the first time I ever felt empowered to create positive social change. At the time, I was applying for colleges and universities and immigration started to play a huge role in my life.  During this time I was lucky to have 2 of my cousins go through the college application process with me since we were all the same age. It was an exciting time for us because we were all about to be the first ones in our families to go to a college or university. After years of waiting and asking others for advice on how to apply and what scholarships to look for, we were finally going to achieve one of the biggest goals we had set for ourselves: to be professionals in the United States. To my surprise, it was while filling out one of those applications that I found out that one of my cousins was undocumented. The blank after “SSN:”  on an application — that I had quickly filled out and overlooked — was the only thing standing in the way of her dreams. Never mind the fact that she wanted to be a doctor and was incredibly smart, or that she was on the honor roll every quarter in high school. It felt as if her shot of going to a four-year university was shot down instantly. The day I found out about my cousin’s immigration status, I felt hopeless and disempowered because I knew that nothing I could say to her would bring the light back to her eyes when she talked about her future. (more…)

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Angy holding a sign: "Soy poderosa because despite my immigration status I have found love in the darkest of places"

Angy Rivera

At the Latinas Organizing for Leadership and Advocacy training in North Carolina, I was handed a piece of paper. I flipped it over and the sign asked me why I am a poderosa. I stared at the blank paper for a few minutes, remembering my senior year of high school. (more…)

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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…)

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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…)

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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:

  1. 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 natalie@latinainstitute.org to add your organization to the list.
  2. 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.
  3. Send an action alert: Share this action alert with your listervs and networks.
  4. 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.
  5. Join NCIWR: Review our principles here and fill out the form to apply for membership.

Need more information? Please contact Kimberly Inez McGuire at National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health or Shivana Jorawar at National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.

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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

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