Archive for the ‘Racism’ Category

A week ago, the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) voted to cut the media’s long-controversial—and fortunately, not uniform—practice of calling people the dreaded and demeaning i-word. Surely, you know what word I’m talking about: “illegal,” “illegal immigrants,” “illegal aliens.”

For years, the media have taken the liberty of constantly demeaning those folks who not only made this country but who continue to build it, drive it, nurse it, mow it, clean it, and feed it. The use of the i-word has gotten large swathes of the population up in arms—sometimes literally!—by fueling anti-immigrant sentiment. They come here to take our jobs! (No, they really don’t). They are all criminals! (Hardly). They drain our public benefits! (Where do I even begin? “They” are typically ineligible for benefits, not that the U.S. is known for having any kind of magnanimous social safety net. Besides, many of “them” pay taxes on the insultingly low wages they earn doing some of the hardest and most dangerous jobs around.)

Meanwhile, for some of us, just reading the i-word in print is enough to make our stomachs turn—personally, hearing it spoken aloud makes my blood boil. I have a few choice words for the i-word lovers: what part of inappropriate, insensitive, insulting, and inhumane don’t y’all understand?  So today, I’m ecstatic that we should see the i-word being phased out of use in the media. This judgmental (not to mention usually misleading and often inaccurate) term never had a place in respectable media outlets, and it will be refreshing to see those outlets give the i-word its due.

We like to think America is great, and sometimes it really is. But immigrants are what made this country great in the first place and will continue to make us great, and we need to remember that. The media play an important role to play in keeping us informed and keeping us democratic, so thank you to SPJ for taking this initiative—it is truly inspired and truly inspiring.

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Given the current anti-immigrant climate in the U.S., it comes as no surprise that an Alabama federal judge upheld many provisions of that state’s new immigration legislation, which takes Arizona’s SB 1070 and raises it a few rights-limiting provisions. And while much of the abhorrent legislation was allowed to stand, it is hard to tell for now whether the judge’s reservation of judgment on numerous provisions—and reservation of implementation in the interim—is a good or bad sign for immigrants. What does seem clear, though, is that on the state and federal level alike, there is confusion not about the state of the economy (after all, who could be confused about that?), but about what immigrants’ contribution has been, is, and should be. A close look reveals that Alabama’s economy depends on the work of immigrants, and that the state’s new legislation will have high dollar costs to the state as well as high human costs to the immigrant population.

There appears to be general consensus that the U.S. needs to shift its economic focus in order to try to regain the economic might of a bygone era—in other words, skilled is the name of the game. But Alabama’s approach has looked backward instead of forward, cutting off immigrants’ access to many educational opportunities, effectively blocking the growth of a skilled workforce, and arguably placing a huge roadblock in the road to economic recovery and growth.


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By Anjela Jenkins, NLIRH Policy Analyst/Law Students for Reproductive Justice Legal Fellow

The ten-year anniversary of 9/11 brings back painful memories for many of this country’s residents. And while 9/11 has become a day of solemn remembrance, it has also become a day of great patriotism—a day when we are all proud to be Americans. In the face of so much pride, then, it is especially important to remember that the years after 9/11 have seen the erosion of some of the values that we most proudly associate with this country.

Standing together over the past decade, we have been shocked at the horror of 9/11 and the tragic loss of innocent lives cut short. As America gathered over the weekend to honor those we lost and remind ourselves of the greatness of this nation, it is important to draw attention to those within our midst who still suffer from the implications of 9/11: all of America’s immigrants. After 9/11, immigrants have been depicted as drains on society and dangers to national security. Fear of another attack mixed with xenophobic rhetoric drove the so-called “terror babies” myth of children born to Muslim American women, destined to use their status as US citizens to perpetrate terrorist attacks on the U.S., and continues to fuel “anchor baby” rhetoric that has targeted Latinas in an ongoing effort to scapegoat undocumented immigrants for America’s social and economic woes.

These misleading and dangerous narratives depict women flocking to US shores to take advantage of the 14th amendment’s provision of citizenship to those born in the US. The way this fiction goes, the children of immigrant mothers become anchors that draw their extended families to the US, eventually acquiring citizenship and proceeding to live large on the dime of the government, thanks to our robust social safety net programs.


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Yesterday courageous undocumented students risked deportation when they were arrested in Chicago for protesting Secure Communities.  The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), stands with these activists and alongside other organizations nationwide that are calling on the Administration to end the controversial immigration enforcement program, Secure Communities, better known as S-Comm.  If there ever was a time to advocate for the importance of safe communities, the time is now!

How does S-Comm work?

Under S-Comm when an individual is arrested, his/her fingerprints are sent to federal immigration databases. If the arrestee’s fingerprints match a record indicating an immigration violation, ICE and local law enforcement are notified.  In most cases, ICE issues a detainer requesting that the jail facility hold the individual up to an extra 48 hours, interviews the arrestee, and decides whether to seek removal of that individual.[1]

Women, communities at risk

While the phrase secure communities inarguably means protecting and keeping communities safe, when it comes to immigrants, our government is doing everything but that.  Not only does S-Comm put immigrant women, their families, and their communities in danger, it perpetuates fear in survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.  This program also threatens the progress that our country has made in the last three decades to bring violence against women out from behind closed doors by making women afraid to call the police for help, for fear of arrest and deportation if they are undocumented.

This threat has become even more vivid to women and their families recently.  In the past several months, some localities have announced that they would no longer participate in the program and would not maintain contracts for the program with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) because it was hindering their ability to keep their communities safe.  On August 5th, DHS announced that it was going to implement the program whether or not they had a contract with local police authorities.  DHS said it will terminate all contracts with states and localities and proceed without contracts in further implementing the program nationwide, despite calls for the agency to suspend the program.  States will no longer have the option to implement the program, they will have to submit to the demands of the federal government.  Still, the administration insists that S-Comm keeps communities safe, but the truth of the matter is that it does not.

Protecting and serving communities, stymied

S-Comm has had a significant impact on community policing strategies because it undermines local law enforcement’s commitment to keeping communities safe.  Enforcement-only policies create an atmosphere of fear, which threatens the trust of the community.  This only makes it harder to capture criminals.

Economic Impact

Another reason states and municipalities oppose this decision is because states will be required to fully implement this program with no assistance from the federal government.  Clearly, this places a financial burden on already stretched local and state resources to the limit fighting local crime, with no incentives to local communities.  Many states are already struggling to hold on to precious resources that are sustaining important programs and services for communities that so vitally need them.

What is being done? What can you do?

Earlier this month, NLIRH, alongside 60 local and national organizations launched our Second Annual Latina Week of Action for Reproductive Justice to bring to light the stark reality that hard working women and families are faced with everyday in their rather unsafe communities.  We also applaud the authoritative report by he National Day Labor Organizing Network entitled, Restoring Community: A National Community Advisory Report on ICE’s failed “Secure Communities” Program that uses facts about the program to cut away at rhetoric.  And as we saw yesterday in Chicago, a nationwide effort has been under way this week to put pressure on the Administration to stop this program.  We urge you to take action too.

At NLIRH, we could not think of a program that is more unfair to communities and intrusive of basic human rights.

[1] Center for Reproductive Rights. Briefing Paper: Reproductive Rights Violations as Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: A Critical Human Rights Analysis. New York City, NY: Center for Reproductive Rights;2010:26. Available at: http://reproductiverights.org/en/document/reproductive-rights-violations-as-torture. Accessed on August 4, 2011.

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After it was reported that a group called Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles is planning on putting up billboards around Los Angeles claiming that “The most dangerous place for a Latino is in the womb,” NLIRH released the following statement denouncing the effort.

“These offensive billboards are nothing more than political ploys designed to stigmatize Latina women and communities of color and restrict access to reproductive health care.

“The organizations promoting these ads are focused on sensationalizing unintended pregnancy and abortion care, and cutting even more women off from the reproductive health care they seek.

“We should be doing all we can to support women making the best personal reproductive health care decisions for themselves and their families.

“As the only national Latina reproductive health and justice organization, we are outraged by these condescending ad campaigns.  These offensive ads have no place in our communities.”

Historically, racial and economic disparities limit quality health care options for Latinas and communities of color, including family planning services. Studies show that African American women and Latinas are more likely to be uninsured or underinsured and often lack basic access to birth control and comprehensive sex education due to fundamental structural inequities in society.

The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health stands in solidarity with other reproductive justice organizations, such as Trust Black Women and California Latinas for Reproductive Justice in condemning this campaign.

Stay tuned for updates about this offensive campaign and ways you can take action.

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By Rita Martinez, Development and Communications Intern

Two latina young women at a computer

Post updated after the jump, August 19

While research has shown that abstinence-only sex education programs don’t work, the University of Central Florida has ignored this fact and recently developed a new virtual reality game which delivers one message, loud and clear: say “no” to sex, and win.

This virtual game features avatars that simulate “real-life” scenarios and proclaims to teach young teens how to resist the advances of their peers. It claims to provide girls with a medium to understand the subtleties surrounding the peer pressure to engage in sexual behavior. Noble as it seems, this game is inherently ill-informed as it takes on a very narrow-minded approach to sex education.

According to one of the developers, Professor Anne Norris, the ultimate goal is “to reduce pregnancy and sexually-transmitted disease among the young Latina population.” I wonder how they intend to do that exactly- will they attempt to be culturally relevant? And if that is indeed the goal of this game, why not give young Latinas a multi-faceted perspective that empowers them to explore the full spectrum of options available to them? No, instead this game purports an outdated view of Latinas, drawing faulty conclusions from their higher pregnancy and STI rates. What they should see is that these health disparities are not a result of a young girl’s ineptitude to deflect sexual advances, but a lack of an integrated approach to comprehensive sex education.


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Coordinators of the anti-choice billboard campaign in Atlanta have arranged a “Freedom Bus for the Unborn” that began on July 23rd in Birmingham, Alabama.  Funded by Priests for Life of New York, this anti-choice operation exploits the historical site across from the 16th Street Baptist Church where the Ku Klux Klan killed four girls in a bombing in 1963.  Alveda King, the niece of Dr. King and an employee of Priests for Life, will head the anti-abortion campaign in an attempt to lend credence to the “black children are an endangered species” mantra.

These freedom rides warp historical facts to suggest that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King opposed reproductive freedoms.  Much like other anti-choice organizations, the coordinators behind the freedom rides co-opt the language of civil rights, a movement based on expanding the right to make choices about one’s own life, to impinge on the decision-making abilities of black women.  To speak out against these misrepresentations of facts and pro-choice ideologies, three groups – SisterSong, SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW!, and SisterLove, Inc. – organized a counter-protest at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center in Atlanta last Saturday.  Be on the lookout for more counter-protests, or organize one with fellow reproductive justice activists, to combat these freedom rides and put forth a vision of civil rights which empowers, rather than stigmatizes, women of color and seeks to advance, rather than roll back, our freedoms.

By Nicole Catá, Policy Intern

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By Rita Martinez, Development and Communications Intern

I recently read a blog post at RH Reality Check about the reproductive health threats that toxic chemicals pose for women’s health.

Spurred by the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill controversy, this post strikes an interesting point. This disaster is not the first time that communities in the Gulf have had their environment threatened by corporate practices.

Kimberly Inez McGuire recaps the environmental injustices that have plagued the Gulf region for quite some time:

For decades, industrial waste and contamination in the Gulf states have been recognized for their role in causing health problems ranging from cancer to asthma. Residents have tested positive for exposure to some of the worst reproductive toxicants—chemicals that have been linked to infertility, miscarriage, low birth weight, low sperm count, and developmental and respiratory disorders for children exposed in utero.

This is a tragic reality for long-time residents, many of whom are primarily African American and Latino. Clearly, this is a case of environmental racism, whereby the environment of low-income and/or communities of color are disproportionally targeted for the location of polluting industries that expose them to much higher levels of toxic chemicals over their more affluent (and often White) counterparts.


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By Nicole Catá, Policy Intern

Immigrants’ rights activists have their work cut out for them due to a series of anti-immigrant legislation passed in various states.  First, Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona signed a bill that requires immigrants to carry their documents at all times and obliges police to interrogate individuals if there is cause to suspect they’re undocumented.  This law, which allows police to stop people on the basis of “foreign characteristics,” inspired an ordinance in Fremont, Nebraska that prohibits businesses from hiring undocumented immigrants and bars landlords from renting to undocumented immigrants.  Most recently, after permitting a resolution praising Arizona on the state’s immigration law to be sent without his signature, Governor Phil Bredesen of Tennessee has signed a controversial, anti-immigrant bill into law:

The law requires local law enforcement agencies to contact federal immigration officials if the citizenship of a person in custody can not be confirmed within three days. Under the agreement, no counties are exempt, and jailers wouldn’t have to deport anyone.

The provisions of this law are frightening for immigrants living in Tennessee for several reasons.  First, the legislation stigmatizes those who cannot confirm their citizenship.  This language is ambiguous at best for legal permanent residents, let alone undocumented individuals.  Not everyone has immediate access to their passport or documents, citizens or not.


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By Lucy Panza, DC Policy Intern

Last Thursday, three women and one girl testified at a jam-packed hearing in Congress on how Arizona’s latest immigration measure is affecting women and children.  Emotions poured out as the women and girl told their stories of detainment and freedom, racism and hope, family separation and community bonding.  As reported by AP:

The partisan event was assembled by Arizona Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva to pressure the Obama administration and Congress to overhaul immigration laws and to challenge Arizona’s tough new immigration law.

First there was 10-year old* Katherine Figueroa, who cried as she asked the Members of Congress assembled, “Please tell President Obama to stop putting parents in jail, all they want is a better life for their kids.”  She talked about how proud she was that despite her parents being detained by Maricopa County Sherriff Joe Arpaio, she could still make it to school on most days.

Then came 23-year old Silvia Rodriguez, who despite not having nationality documents, refuses to call herself illegal or even undocumented.  She has been accepted to a graduate school program at Harvard and is struggling to come up with the money to attend this fall.  When Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez called her the best example of an American based on her hard work and sacrifice, she tearfully thanked him because she had never been called an American before.


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