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Archive for the ‘violence’ Category

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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The National Center for Transgender Equality has partnered with the League of United Latin American Citizens to bring us a closer look at the Latin@ respondents of their critical and groundbreaking National Transgender Discrimination Survey, and the findings show some pretty sobering truths about the reality of being Latin@ and Trans. Trans Latin@s were among the most vulnerable of the survey’s respondents to harassment, abuse, and violence; often live in extreme poverty; and were affected by HIV in devastating numbers.

The vast majority of Latin@ respondents with experience being transgender students reported harassment in school, and many reported physical and/or sexual assault in school. In fact, 21% reported harassment so severe that it led to leaving school altogether. The data also show that respondents who were harassed and abused by teachers in K-12 show worse health outcomes than those who did not report such abuse.

Perhaps the  most devastating piece of information garnered from this new analysis is that 47% – nearly half of all respondents – reported having attempted suicide. We have got to do better. The combined forces of racism, xenophobia and transphobia are devastating to the health and lives of trans folks in our communities, and we must work to eliminate these structural barriers. This is reproductive justice – we must work towards salud, dignidad y justicia for everyone in our communities.

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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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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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By Hilarie Myers, Communications and Development Intern

The nation is still reeling in the aftermath of last Saturday’s shooting rampage in Tucson, which left 6 people dead and 18 people, including Congresswomen Giffords (D, AZ-8), seriously injured.

The response of politicians, pundits, and other public figures has been varied, ranging from Sarah Palin’s highly criticized speech, in which she defended her own behavior and political rhetoric, to President Barack Obama’s well-received memorial address, in which he emphasized the need for civility and compassion.

The general public’s response to the shootings has also been divided: On one hand, the Community Food Bank of Tucson, Arizona, one of Rep. Giffords’s favorite charities, received over $18,000 in donations in the first seven hours after her husband referred to the organization in a statement on the shooting.  On the other hand, Timothy Williams of the New York Times reports that firearms sales in Arizona have drastically increased over the last few days, most likely due to fears that Saturday’s shootings will result in a push for stricter gun control laws.

In Congress, reactions to the events in Tucson have been just as varied, particularly on the subject of gun control.  Since the shooting, there has been a recent outpouring of support for stricter gun control laws, with a particular emphasis on the need to introduce legislation to ban extended-round ammunition clips, such as those used by shooter Jared Loughner in Tucson.

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The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) offers our deepest condolences and solidarity to the families and victims of the assassination attempt on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (AZ-8).

Congresswoman Giffords and 19 others were shot Saturday outside a Tucson grocery store during her first event in district after being sworn into her third term. Six people are confirmed dead and Giffords is fighting for her life.  Amongst those confirmed dead is Federal Judge John Roll, Rep. Gifford’s Director of Community Outreach, Gabe Zimmerman and a nine-year-old child.

We echo Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik’s remarks when he blamed the violence on the toxic political culture fueled by partisan media.

“We have become the Mecca of prejudice and bigotry,” he said after describing the shooter as an unbalanced person who could be easily influenced by vitriol spewed by pundits.

Giffords won another term in a narrow victory that reflected a tough campaign against the 29-year-old Marine Veteran Jesse Kelly (R).  Congresswoman Giffords stood by women’s rights and also approached immigration in a nuanced fashion. Because her district borders Mexico she was concerned about the impact of drug smuggling violence and therefore requested additional border security from both the Bush and Obama Administrations.  However, she also called for increased work visas and was a vocal opponent of SB1070, a state law that requires law enforcement to conduct racial profiling.

As a social justice organization NLIRH condemns all senseless violence, especially against women and children, as a threat to our democracy and freedom.

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A red umbrella (symbol of sex workers' rights) and text underneath saying "International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers"

Today is the seventh annual Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, and NLIRH would like to invite you to a free event we have co-sponsored with the Sex Workers’ Outreach Project of New York City and other fabulous organizations to commemorate the day.  Please join us to hear fabulous speakers, join a community speak-out, and remember those we have lost:

7:30-9:30pm

Metropolitan Community Church of New York

446 W 36th st (between 9th & 10th aves), New York, NY  10018

Ending violence against sex workers in particular, and sex workers’ rights in general, are matters of reproductive justice.  Some sex workers have specific health care needs that often go unmet because of the clandestine nature of their work, or the stigma faced at doctors’ offices; some are forced to work in unsuitable or unsafe conditions; and others work in environments where they are unable to organize for adequate wages.   Though much violence against sex workers is perpetuated by clients, it is important to recognize that the most common perpetrators of violence against sex workers are not clients at all, but governments:

Although the purported mission of governments who criminalize sex work is to abolish the industry, sometimes with overtones of rescue, in reality the laws punish sex workers and make their lives harder.

In fact, the criminalization of sex work disproportionately affects low-income women, women of color, immigrants and gender non-conforming persons, putting them at increased risk of deportation and violence within the criminal justice system.  And though much is said about women who are victims of sex trafficking, much less often is the issue of trafficking talked about as a matter of immigrant’s rights and global economic justice – the lack of which is the real problem behind all human trafficking.  Violence against sex workers is as much – if not more – about criminalization of sex work and oppression at the hands of the state as it is about violent clients.  The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health is proud to support the rights and well-being of sex workers, and we hope you can join us at tonight’s event!

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