Archive for the ‘Immigration’ Category

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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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.

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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.

This report comes out just as Congress voted for a Violence Against Women Act that is deeply hostile to immigrant women, eliminating critical protections for undocumented survivors of abuse.

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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!


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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!

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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!

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After a few weeks of back and forth about the Violence Against Women Act later, the Senate seems finally ready to finish work on it and vote today. But why so much debate?

The Violence Against Women Act first passed in 1994, and has since been reauthorized twice – in 2000 and 2005. It is up for reauthorization once again, and though historically VAWA has had broad bipartisan support, a few provisions that address the needs of marginalized populations in the United States – in this case, Native Americans, immigrants, and LGBTQ folks – have been singled out and targeted for opposition. Namely, these provisions would:

  • Provides tribes jurisdiction to prosecute non-Native persons accused of IPV against Native partners within their territories
  • Include LGBT persons in its definition of “underserved populations,” and make funds obtained through VAWA subject to non-discrimination provisions including sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Include support programs specifically for immigrant communities, such as increasing the number of U-Visas (visas available through VAWA for immigrants abused by U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents), expanding U Visa qualifying crimes, allowing anyone at a law enforcement agency to provide certifications for U visas, and providing a possibility for people who can’t get law enforcement certifications to still apply for U visas if they have enough evidence.

The fact that these are sticking points is absolutely absurd. Approximately 1.5 million women from all walks of life experience intimate partner violence (IPV), and the impact of IPV on communities of color and LGBT communities should not be understated. Though no studies demonstrate that IPV is higher in immigrant communities than the community at large, Latina and Asian immigrant women are overrepresented among IPV-related homicide victims. IPV among LGBTQ people occurs, but is often ignored and even turned away from services. And in their lifetimes, 24% of American Indian and Alaska Native women will be raped, and 39% will be subjected to domestic violence.

That members of Congress have taken issue with provisions that would increase the safety of these populations ignores reality and is an affront to justice. Each year, the lives of thousands of women, children, and others who survive intimate partner violence are made safer by VAWA and the programs it has created. On their behalf, it is imperative that these provisions stay in the bill, and that VAWA grows along with the times.

Urge your Senators to pass VAWA with these provisions today. We cannot afford to ignore our communities’ realities. Please take action!

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Today, I was able to stand in solidarity with the people of Arizona in their opposition to the racial-profiling and anti-immigrant law enacted two years ago, S.B. 1070. Today, the  Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of the law, and pro-immigrant, pro-civil rights forces were out on the steps to have their voices heard.

The crowd was electric as immigrant rights groups vastly outnumbered anti-immigrant activists.

The crowd was energetically chanting,

¡El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!

¡Adelante! ¡Adelante! ¡La lucha sigue avanzando!

¡Aquí estamos, y no nos vamos!

¿Qué queremos? ¡Justicia! ¿Cuándo? ¡Ahora!

¡Si se puede! Yes we can!

When I arrived around 11am, the Supreme Court was wrapping up oral arguments for the day. Those who were inside the Supreme Court emerged and told of what they heard. Immigration attorneys noted that there is reason to be hopeful that the law will be found unconstitutional as Justices expressed concern over the racial profiling. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, herself a woman of color, asked if having a name like “Sotomayor” would make her suspect under the Arizona law.  Justice Samuel Alito wondered if a resident of New Mexico driving through Arizona (New Mexico issues driver’s liscences to undocumented folks) could also be stopped and asked for papers. Others wondered if SB1070 would lead to mass incarceration of Arizona residents.

There was large support from the community of faith. Faith leaders, from various religious and spiritual backgrounds, spoke about the moral imperative in overturning S.B. 1070. They spoke about how the law is breaking apart families and spreading fear. They argued that we need immigration solutions that welcome immigrants with open arms, and allow families to live with dignity.

At around 12:30pm, religious leaders ended their “Jericho march.” These religious leaders marched in silence and prayer around the Supreme Court seven times.

At about 1pm, the festivities, the celebrations, the music, and the chants ended. Or did they? As  immigrant rights activists proceeded back to their buses, they chanted all the way to Union Station and in Union Station itself.

Activists were chanting, and luchando, until the end!

I was inspired today, being at the Supreme Court. Seeing solidarity in action gave me the sense that despite the enormous challenges, the people will be heard.

While I normally squirm in fear of Supreme Court decisions, today I looked around me and realized that no matter what the Roberts Court decides, the forces on the side of humanity, of dignity, and of justice will prevail in overturning SB1070 and copy-cat laws in states like Georgia, Alabama, and Indiana.

Being at the Supreme Court today reminded me that when we work together, we are stronger in our fight for  salud, dignidad, y justicia!

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Today, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments on the controversial Arizona immigration law, also known as SB 1070. We’ve written a lot about the bill since it passed  here at the Nuestra Vida, Nuestra Voz blog – its consequences are far-reaching and ever-evolving.

Today, more than half of immigrants are women, and many of those are the sole breadwinners of their families and the backbone of their communities. The law legalizes racial profiling and creates cruel conditions in which immigrant women and families live in fear of separation.

We’ll be waiting anxiously to hear how the arguments go, and ultimately the Supreme Court’s decision.We’ll update you when we know more, but for now, here are some of the posts in which we’ve written about Arizona for a quick refresher.

The Arizona 20-week abortion ban and immigrant women

Important Supreme Court session for Latinas as Court agrees to decide on Arizona SB 1070 constitutionality

The perils of private business running public policy: The case of SB1070

Arizona judge blocks most controversial portions of Arizona immigration law

Local police officer files legal challenge to Arizona racial profiling law

Latina Arizonans testify on racist immigration law

Silvia Henriquez responds to Arizona on Roll Call

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