Archive for the ‘Immigration’ Category

Earlier this month, New American Heritage Dictionary received perhaps a larger-than-expected backlash against one of their latest additions to the dictionary: the term “anchor baby.” This addition lent legitimacy to a word reviled by the pro-immigrant community because of its use in vitriolic attacks on immigrants, particularly because the original version of the new dictionary definition failed to indicate that the term is degrading and offensive. Adding insult to injury, the dictionary’s executive director indicated that the definition, as written, was in keeping with the practice of neutral and objective dictionary definitions.


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Immigration has been one of the most explosive and divisive issues in politics in the past few years. Along with a few otehr issues (such as access to abortion services), the immigration debate has gotten a lot of play, and often the  media does not play nice. One phrase in particular, however, has been repeated over and over, in an attempt to both demonize immigrants and dehumanize women: “anchor baby.” The phrase has been everywhere, implying that immigrants give birth to children in the U.S. as a quick and easy way to get citizenship for themselves. This is, of course, incorrect; the time frame of a U.S. citizen child of immigrants to reach the age at which they could petition their parents and then going through the process of petitioning is decades, and is not exactly easy or cheap. But because of the popularity of the phrase, the New American Heritage Dictionary added it to its next volume. However, the definition is the following:

anchor babyn. A child born to a noncitizen mother in a country that grants automatic citizenship to children born on its soil, especially such a child born to parents seeking to secure eventual citizenship for themselves and often other members of their family.

Say what? Nowhere in the definition is there a mention that this is a pejorative and hateful term. The dictionary’s executive editor claims that they must remain objective even on politically charged words, but it seems a huge oversight to not include that this is in fact a term that is used to insult and demean. What do you think?

UPDATE: USA Today has a poll going – “Is the phrase ‘anchor baby’ derogatory?” Go let them know what you think!

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As a reproductive justice organization working in the Latin@ community, people often ask us what we do to get people to understand such complex and intertwined issues such as abortion, immigration, and LGBTQ liberation. It is true that these issues are complicated. The way we talk about them is nuanced, they ways in which they connect are varied and intricate. But the reason we advocate for our issues in this way is not to overly complicate, but rather because this is the way we live our lives. As renown freedom-fighter Audre Lorde once said, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”

Our communities understand the complex nature of these issues because it’s the way our lives play out – we are a sum of identities and realities that make us who we are. In fact, it’s the fact that we speaking about many different issues in the context of each other that facilitates our community’s connection to our work.

We want to share this video of Felipe Matos after the pilot of our training on LGBTQ liberation and reproductive justice this summer as an example of those connections, and the natural ways they play out in the lives of Latin@s in the United States. Thank you so much, Felipe, for spending a beautiful Friday evening in Miami with us, and for your dedication to our movements for justice.

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As the year comes to a close, it’s hard not to think about the upcoming holidays—for better or for worse, this is the time of year when family get-togethers tend to happen. But for many immigrants in Alabama, including thousands of African immigrants and tens of thousands of Latinos and Asians, the holidays will be less joyful than they might have been. After the passage of the state’s harsh immigrant law, HB 56, thousands of immigrants have left the state, fleeing the hardships that would flow from the law’s extreme restrictions on every aspect of existence, including merely being present. Considering that half of Alabama’s undocumented population live in mixed-status families—families that include at least one U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident—HB 56 is likely to have forced some Alabamans to make a difficult choice: stay put and say goodbye to fleeing family members or abandon home in order to leave with their families. In the shadow of this law, those who have decided to stick it out in the state’s hostile environment may find themselves without water, work, or even a home.

In recognition of the cruel outcomes that have come from Alabama’s legislation, the “One Family, One Alabama” campaign seeks repeal of HB 56. Supported by Congressman Luis Gutierrez and other members of Congress, the “One Family, One Alabama” campaign also intends to hold the Administration, including Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano, accountable for the suffering that has become commonplace in Alabama. Sec. Napolitano has voiced support for the Department of Justice’s suit to enjoin the enforcement of HB 56, yet her actions suggest otherwise: DHS’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has not suspended programs in ICE’s ACCESS portfolio, such as the Criminal Alien Program and Secure Communities (S-Comm). Under ICE Agreements of Cooperation in Communities to Enhance Safety and Security (ACCESS), federal immigration officials benefit from—and essentially condone—the use of racial profiling and perpetration of rights violations that occur through the enforcement of HB 56.

Though Alabama legislators and ICE officials may not recognize it, the importance of family is a concept that knows no boundaries—cultural, national, or otherwise. HB 56 leaves an estimated 28,000 U.S. citizen children in Alabama vulnerable to losing a parent due to immigration status. ICE needs to recognize that the human costs of this legislation are too high and do more than rhetorically rebuke Alabama for this law. Alabama needs to realize that this law has already split families apart and will continue to do so until it is repealed. The “One Family, One Alabama” campaign sets out to bring ICE and Alabama to see the harm they are doing to our communities when they do not respect the importance of family.

The National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights (NCIWR) works on a wide range of issues affecting immigrant women in the U.S., including how our immigration laws, policies, and practices tear families apart. For more information about our work, please take advantage of NCIWR’s information and resources at http://nciwr.wordpress.com/.

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This post is part of the HERvotes Blog Carnival, “Fighting Sexual Harassment.” To read other posts, please visit www.hervotes.us.

Sexual harassment against women transcends boundaries of culture and ethnicity.  I know this far too well because one of my former clients, an older woman who was sexually harassed by her co-worker, shared her personal story with me.  Like many unpleasant and fearful encounters, this caused deep suffering and psychological scars for the 24 year-old woman, mother of two young girls.  At the core of her wounding, my client, a young victim in a state of vulnerability, found unbearable fear and shame.

In the face of injustice, however, Latina women continue to stand up and fight for their right to work in safe environments. By sharing their stories, like my client did with me, Latinas create greater awareness among themselves and their allies. Latinas work to ensure that others will not have to face the same indignities: in the case of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission et.al. v. Williamette Tree Wholesale, Inc., two Latina women sought justice in their case against their employer, who is now required to conduct extensive sexual harassment training for all supervisors. Advocacy groups on the ground, such as Arte Sana, seek to promote healing for Latinas through the arts, public education and professional training. This and other groups also see an expanded role of promotoras, or community health leaders, to link Latinas to the information and services they need to address and prevent sexual harassment and assault.

Even though Latinas are fighting for their rights, it is also important to recognize that when a system fails to appreciate the ethnic/racial dimensions of the issue, women of color suffer disproportionately.  Therefore, it is critically important for local law enforcement and allied health professionals to further examine the connections between theory and practical work aimed at transforming the way we respond to the unique needs of Latinas who suffer from higher rates of sexual harassment than white women.

The disparity in sexual harassment for Latinas may be attributed to several factors, including low wages and hostile working conditions, especially for undocumented Latinas.  According to a survey conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center, 77% of Latinas say sexual harassment is a major problem on the job.  In a survey conducted among farm workers, 80% of Mexican females reported some sort of sexual harassment.  This unwarranted behavior is so widespread that farms are often called “green motels” or “panty fields.”


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This post is part of the National Partnership for Women and Families’ #SaveMedicaid Blog Rally.

Many women in the United States take a huge step forward under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). With the ACA’s provisions for more affordable private healthcare, expanded access to public health coverage, and mandated insurance coverage for the wide range of preventive care services, the future looks bright. But the Congress Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction—more commonly known as the supercommittee—is changing that. Many women, including many Latinas, stand to be hurt as the supercommittee tries to reach a deal to reduce the deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next decade. Safety net programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, have received great deal of attention as targets for cost-savings: proposals have suggested $50 billion to $185 billion in reductions on Medicaid spending, while most proposals seek to chop $400-500 billion from Medicare.

Cuts to both of these programs would be devastating for millions of Americans, including Latinas. About one-quarter of Latinos are Medicaid recipients, including 14% of Latinas aged 19-64. Considering that almost three times as many Latinas are uninsured as receive Medicaid, some Latinas may be newly-eligible for Medicaid under the ACA expansions. Medicare cuts would also be devastating for the health of elderly Latinas: 58% of Latina Medicare beneficiaries live on annual incomes of less than $10,000 (compared with less than a quarter of white women at that income level).

As we wait to see if the supercommittee recommends massive cuts to these basic safety net programs, one thing is both clear and painfully ironic: some the same individuals who think the U.S. apparently cannot afford our already bare-bones safety net programs think that we can afford to spend billions of dollars every year on immigration enforcement and detention, where our mothers, sisters, and friends lose their health, their dignity, their families, and even their lives.


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Anti-immigrant rhetoric frequently dehumanizes immigrants, erroneously reducing them to individuals who only take from our society without giving and ignoring the valuable contributions immigrants make as workers, spouses, parents, and friends. Proponents of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) often cite family values as a rationale for denying same-sex couples legal recognition, human dignity, and equal rights. Yet denying individuals the right to have a family just because of who they love—and denying children homes just because of who their parents love—is truly at odds with family values.

We applaud efforts like that of Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who, along with 132 members of the House of Representatives, recently filed an amicus brief in the pending court case challenging DOMA’s constitutionality. Although the Obama administration and Attorney General Holder announced earlier this year their conclusion that DOMA is unconstitutional, and the Department of Justice has abandoned its defense of the legislation in several court cases, others in government have deemed state non-recognition of same-sex couples and their children a priority. But attention is not the only resource diverted to this debate: in these times of economic austerity and deep cuts to cutting social safety programs, the original salary cap for legal counsel defending the constitutionality of DOMA have been tripled to a maximum of $1.5 million. On November 10, the Senate Judiciary Committee will take another step in this important fight against DOMA as committee members begin debate and mark-up on S. 598—a bill that would repeal Section 3 of DOMA and incorporate language that provides for some same-sex relationship recognition under federal law. Bringing down DOMA is integral to recognizing the invaluable contributions that immigrants and LGBTQ—and their families—make in the United States.


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The experience of Elena Cabrera, a survivor of intimate partner violence,  is a sad example of many of the current problems with our immigration system:

A woman who called the Escondido Police Department to report that she was beaten by her boyfriend was herself arrested and later turned over to immigration authorities after she was booked at the Vista jail, a case that critics say illustrates the problems inherent in local police getting involved in immigration enforcement.

Dual arrests in domestic violence situations are often problematic because they may leave any children without parents and may lend weight to the perpetrator’s threats. The intersecting issue of immigration status often introduces additional power dynamic issues. When the perpetrator has legal status and/or English language proficiency and the survivor doesn’t, the perpetrator has more leverage for manipulating a situation when law enforcement gets involved.

When Ms. Cabrera was taken into custody, she was forced to leave her four children unsupervised, which is frightening and potentially dangerous for them. Ms. Cabrera’s immigration violations were revealed due to local-federal information sharing and contributed to her transfer to ICE custody. Under the Obama administration’s new prosecutorial discretion policy, Ms. Cabrera, who has a pending Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) immigration petition, would have been labeled “low-priority” had she been placed into removal proceedings. Even so, she remained in custody, away from her children, for eight days while her perpetrator was released.


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Women of all colors, ages, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic backgrounds find themselves in abusive relationships with their intimate partners. This month is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which celebrates survivors of domestic violence and strives to shed light on the struggles and resiliency of this community, including against the state’s reluctance to “meddle” in “private” affairs. Yet while Latinas are frequently victims of intimate partner violence (IPV)—in fact, immigrant women are disproportionately represented among IPV-related homicide victims—perhaps the sadder part of the story is the extent to which violent and degrading treatment is a common thread in narratives about how many public institutions treat our community.

Take immigration detention, for instance. Part government institution, but also part of the prison industrial complex, immigration detention metes out punishments that are excessively severe; this punitive state of affairs is compounded by horrendous treatment and deplorable living conditions. Women represent a relatively small proportion of the immigrant detainee population, but many of them are Latinas—71% of all detainees in ICE custody in January 2009 were from Mexico, or Central or South America. Similarly, two-thirds of women in prison are women of color. So because women of color are disproportionately incarcerated, they are also disproportionately affected by these policies.


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