Archive for the ‘Immigration’ Category

NLIRH is so excited to be part of the CLPP conference again this year! Hampshire College’s Civil Liberty and Public Policy program puts on a fabulous reproductive justice conference every year – From Abortion Rights to Social Justice: Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom – and it is a very important space for us in social justice organizing:

More than 150 speakers and 75 conference workshops will highlight successful examples of activism and discuss how struggles for reproductive and sexual rights are intricately linked to movements for economic, social, and environmental justice. Topics of workshops and strategic action sessions include abortion access in the U.S. and internationally, climate justice, anti-foreclosure activism, media making and storytelling, the politics of population control, and organizing around the 2012 elections.

NLIRH is presenting on three panels this year, and we hope that you can come stop by and say hi! I’m  presenting on two panels:

  • Queering Reproductive Justice – Saturday at 3:15 pm, and
  • Our Lives, Our Voices: Reproductive Justice and Immigrant Communities – Saturday at 5:15 pm

And Isa is presenting on another:

  • Building a Cross-Class and Multi-Racial Movement for True Economic Recovery

We hope you can join us!



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Veronica and Stephanie holding signs that say "Libertad, Familia: Defiende los derechos de las mujeres inmigrantes"

Stephanie and Veronica at the March for Immigrants' Rights on March 21, 2010

Yesterday, the Arizona House passed an omni-bus anti-choice law that included a ban on abortion past 20 weeks. These 20 week bans are all the rage now  in anti-choice legislating, and proposals for 20 week bans have been popping up all over the country in the last few years. The fact that this  most recent ban passed in Arizona, however, hit a nerve.

As you probably know, Arizona has one of the harshest anti-immigrant laws in the nation. And laws that criminalize immigrants and create harsh enforcement procedures do damage on a lot of fronts: they split families, they cost a lot of money. But anti-immigrant sentiment also has an effect on health. It is laws like these and the sentiment behind them that put up barriers to health care access for immigrants. Many immigrants, even some with legal documentation, cannot access public health care programs like Medicaid even if otherwise eligible; others who have found places where they could access health care that is affordable avoid going for fear that accessing this care will alert immigration authorities, or because the authorities have set up shop and are waiting outside the clinic (a practice our activists have witnessed and told us about). And abortion is health care.

You see, there are many barriers to obtaining safe, legal abortion services, and access to health care is a huge issue for immigrant women. Barriers to health care add time: time to gather up the money for the procedure, time to travel to a location where there is a provider, waiting periods, ultrasound appointments…it all adds up. For immigrant women in states like Arizona, who face many barriers in obtaining health care and abortion services, it takes time to get all the ducks in a row to get the services they need, and this ban will impact them the hardest. An abortion is not cheap, and it only gets more expensive as the weeks keep moving along; a woman may have gathered what she thinks is enough money for a procedure only to find that the price has gone up, meaning she will need more time – during which the procedure just gets more expensive.

It’s important to look at all of these systems together, for they paint a picture of who will be most affected. As usual, it is low-income women and immigrant women.




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MLK in Birmingham

“Lo que pasa en la casa, no se habla,” a phrase that was drilled into me and my siblings at a young age, was the first thing that came out of the mouth of Trini, a mother, a woman, a member of the Birmingham community, and a warrior in the fight against Alabama’s Anti-Immigration Law, HB 56. Trini and six other extraordinary women were part of a group of Latinas, who made a decision that  goes against what they were taught culturally to do (not to talk about hardship at home): they began speaking out and fighting back.

These women each had characteristics of my greatest role model, my mother. My mother is by far the most extraordinary woman alive, not only because she is my mother, but because of what she did to make sure that us –her children and only family in the United States– were able to help her realize her “American Dream”: to be educated professionals, own a home, and have the opportunity to be what we want at our fingertips. My mother, a paraprofessional for the NYC Department of Education, has been an incredible educator, and proud union member for over twenty years. My siblings and I are all clear that had it not been for my mother’s great job with awesome benefits and constant focus on our education, we wouldn’t be where we are today. My mother and father both paved the way alongside other Latin@ immigrants to fight and obtain their dreams for a better life.

Two weeks ago on 3/21 & 3/22/12, I unfortunately saw that the path my parents made when they came to this country, is slowly disappearing in places like Birmingham, Alabama. As an Advisory Committee Member for the We Belong Together delegation to Birmingham, I along with sixteen other fierce, woman leaders, came to Alabama to bear witness to the harshest anti-immigrant, anti-family law in the United States, HB 56. We heard about how one law has been able to tear apart, traumatize, and at times uproot women, children, and families. Interestingly, the women who shared their stories with us taught us all a lesson: that they would not let their fear paralyze them, but instead use that Letter from kidsfear to empower them to stand up, take control, and fight like hell.

These women spoke about the importance to access health care for their children, a better life for their families, and the American Dream they made for themselves — one which they knew they would never be able to fulfill in their homelands. Their reasons to emigrate and the dreams they have made are all things that I am very familiar with. My father’s family immigrated to the US from Ecuador in the late-50s and early-60s searching for a cure for polio, which had struck my aunt at a young age. My parents had one thing in mind when they got married, which was to create the best environment possible for their kids to be better than them, to have access to everything they need, and for their family to move ahead. It seemed to me like all of my friends who were like me, first generation immigrants, had parents who had the same dream. We just needed to go to school, do well academically, go to college, and we would be set for life — our parents paved the way for us to do all of these things without having to worry about the hardships that they had to confront. And yet, 27 years later, I listened to the stories of the women of Alabama and realized that the path began vanishing because of this anti-immigrant, anti-family law.


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Throughout 20 Days of ACA, we have discussed many ways the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or health reform) prioritizes the prevention of disease and illness. We have discussed the creation of the National Prevention Council and National Prevention Strategy as well as no co-pays for a wide range preventive care services including cervical cancer screening, pregnancy-related care, STI/HIV testing, and maternity and newborn coverage in the state insurance “exchanges.”

Today, we discuss another preventive health service that will be offered with no co-pay: domestic violence screening.

Starting on August 1, 2012 new health insurance plans must begin to cover this important service at no additional cost to patients. This important provision was included thanks to the Women’s Health Amendment (WHA).

How does domestic violence or inter-partner violence (IPV) impact Latinas?

According to year 2000 estimates, nearly 1 in 4 (23.4%) Latinas face domestic violence over the course of their lifetime. This violence comes in many forms including but not limited to verbal abuse, physical assault, and sexual assault. Abusive partners also cut off access to support systems and money (even partners’ earned wages.) Increasingly,  reproductive coercion – including sabotaging birth control methods, threatening to leave a women if she does not become pregnant, forcing contraception or abortion, and forcing partners to use recreational drugs to enhance arousal - is being used a form of violence against partners.

And while more data is needed, we know that immigrant Latinas are  overrepresented among IVP-related homicide victims and they face more barriers to leaving abusers due to lesser developed support systems, ineligibility for public benefits, and limited English proficiency among others. We also know a pregnant woman has a 35% increased chance of experiencing IPV compared to non-pregnant women and that IPV in LGBTQ communities occurs, but is often ignored.

To add to the challenges, states like Arizona and Alabama have enacted a series of dangerous immigration policies that only  decrease Latinas’ confidence in law enforcement, break apart families through incarceration, detention and deportation, and create an “anti-immigrant” culture.  Despite the creation of the U-Visa in 2000 to protect immigrants who assist law enforcement, these egregious state immigration policies threaten public safety and health by making it more difficult for Latina immigrants of IPV to leave their abusers.

Why is no co-pay for domestic violence screening and counseling important for Latinas?

Much needs to be done in this country to end domestic violence, address domestic violence in LGBTQ communities, and elevate the status of those who identify as women. For starters, NLIRH called for comprehensive immigration reform and condemned Arizona-like immigration policies.

The Affordable Care Act make a small but necessary contribution to the health of women who face domestic violence. By requiring no co-pays for domestic violence screening, the health care law removes a barrier for women whose wages and access to money have been cut off by abusers.

Health reform recognizes that women face unique barriers to health care that men do not face. From no co-pays for women’s-specific preventive care to non-discrimination protection, the ACA hopes to reduce health disparities faced by women, and particularly women of color by improving women’s access to health care insurance and public health services. And as Latinas have disproportionately been excluded from health services, they stand poised to gain from the reforms under the ACA.

There are only a few more posts in 20 Days of ACA — stay tuned throughout this week!

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This blog is part of the #HERVotes blog carnival to support VAWA reauthorization.

In 1994, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) passed Congress with bipartisan support, providing funding for studies of intimate partner violence (IPV), the creation of necessary trainings and other materials responding to the issue, and the development of resources that help individuals exit dangerous and abusive situations. VAWA has been reauthorized twice—in 2000 and 2005—and is currently up for reauthorization again. This time, though, the bill faces challenges in getting through Congress, and proposed adjustments the Act’s funding threaten VAWA’s integrity. Ensuring that VAWA passes should be on everyone’s minds, since IPV occurs in all of our communities. But immigrant communities—especially immigrant women—may be particularly affected by any changes to VAWA.

IPV is a wide-reaching issue, with over two million injuries from IPV per year. But while male-on-female violence in heterosexual relationships is the stereotypical image of an abusive relationship, it is important to recognize that IPV also occurs in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community and that men and women alike may be subject to IPV.


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It’s hard to ignore the numerous ways in which our system of immigration incarceration harms our communities: on a daily basis, tens of thousands of people are warehoused in jails, many of them far from their families, separated from children and other loved ones, and unable to access legal assistance. To our horror, immigration detention produces story after story of even more extreme abuse, including denial of adequate healthcare, refusal of appropriate housing facilities, and unpunished sexual abuse of immigration detainees. We hope that shedding more light on the reality of abuse in immigration detention will help improve the transparency of the system; force recognition of its over-expansion, under-regulation, and general inefficacy for addressing immigration infractions; and, ultimately, bring about the end of our reliance on incarcerating immigrants. (more…)

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If you’ve ever read or seen a TV program about our penal incarceration system, you know that what goes on in jails and prisons is the stuff of nightmares. And it is increasingly coming to light that what goes on in immigration detention is not so different. In a sense, this revelation may not be very shocking considering that in 2009, about half of immigration detainees were held in detention centers operated by private entities—typically those that focus on criminal corrections “solutions”—while the other half was actually housed in jails or prisons. But despite the increasingly clear similarities between our criminal and immigration detention systems, including an awareness that sexual abuse in immigration detention is a widespread phenomenon that continues to occur, largely with impunity, there is resistance from various quarters to applying the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) to immigration detainees. Women and LGBTQ detainees, in particular, will continue to pay with their dignity so long as PREA’s application to immigration detention is not ensured.


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Last year, Arizona passed its now-notorious anti-immigration bill SB 1070. Arguing that the federal government has not met its responsibility to enforce immigration law, the state strove to address the immigration “problem” in the state through the harshest measures seen in the country at that time. The federal district court decided in the initial lawsuit against the law to prevent it from going into effect after it was passed; the appellate court upheld that decision regarding key provisions. As a result, the state’s almost one-third Latino population—and approximately 15% foreign-born population (a rough approximation of the immigrant population)—were granted some respite from the weight of some of the most egregious provisions, including the “papers please”/“reasonable suspicion” of being an immigrant provision. Not satisfied with this result, SB 1070 supporters have fought to have the case heard by the Supreme Court. Just as the legislation’s opponents gained with the recall of anti-immigrant governor and SB 1070-proponent Russell Pearce a few months ago, the law’s supporters won on December 12, 2011 when the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

Of course, the Court’s decision to hear the case does not take place in a vacuum, and here are three main reasons that Latinas may want to watch the Court closely in the months to come.


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