Archive for the ‘Immigration’ Category

a woman, with the text: I am undocuqueer. "As an undocumented jota I was taught to hate myself but I have consciously struggled to love me. Me siento libre!" - Imelda

Undocuqueer art by Julio Salgado

Today is National Coming Out Day, and though this day is usually reserved for coming out as LGBTQ, I want to complicate that and honor the undocuqueers, who are complicating the nationwide picture of LGBTQ people and that of immigrants:

We are queer undocumented youth. We cannot afford to be in either the queer or undocumented closet. We cannot and will not hide; we cannot and will not let those who haven’t been in our shoes decide and tell us how to act, how to feel and that this isn’t our home. We have the right to be whoever we want to be and love whoever we want to love. It is a shame that the only path we have to legalization is to lead a heterosexual lifestyle. We shouldn’t and won’t conform to such ideas. We have a right to live and love to the full extent of our capacity.

We urge you to come out! Now is the time to come and proclaim that you’re UndocuQueer, Unafraid and Unashamed!

Of course, the existence of people inhabiting these two spheres is not new: immigrants have always been part of the struggle for queer and trans liberation, as queer and trans folk have long contributed to immigrants’ rights and racial justice movements. But bringing together immigration and queerness under the “coming  out” umbrella has been a refreshing and beautiful addition to the national conversation. In a political context in which the notion of coming out has in many ways moved away from the beginning of a larger conversation about social justice and towards the individual achievement of “normal” gayness, lending the notion of coming out to the undocumented experience adds nuance and reminds us that queer liberation is inextricably tied to the liberation of all marginalized communities.

So this coming out day, I am honoring the undocuqueers and all the queer and trans folks out there reminding us not only that there is no queer liberation without collective liberation, but that it is indeed possible. ¡Adelante!

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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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