Archive for the ‘Families’ Category

We’ve been following the case of Juana Villegas since the beginning. Just over a week after she gave birth, shackled, while in in jail due to her immigration status, we covered it here on Nuestra Vida, Nuestra Voz as an all-too-real example of the ways that immigration enforcement tactics hurt immigrant women and families. Shortly afterward, the New York Times covered Juana’s story, and it became a prominent if all-too-common reminder of the importance of considering gender in immigration advocacy.

I am incredibly happy to hear that last week, a judge in Nashville awarded Juana $1.1 milion to cover her attorney’s fees and other expenses during the three-year ordeal of lawsuits and appeals. Most importantly, the judge also certified a U-visa – a visa category that is available to undocumented victims of crime who may fear reporting them for fear of deportation. While this certainly does not represent justice – in a just world, this would never have happened in the first place – it is certainly positive that a court has recognized that Juana’s rights have been violated.

Of course, this is just one of many cases, most of which never make it to the media’s attention. With immigration enforcement programs such as Secure Communities taking hold across the U.S. and states taking immigration enforcement into their own hands, there is still much work to do.


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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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Long-time NLIRH friend Miriam Z. Pérez, aka the Radical Doula, pointed out to us a very cool new resource: the California Pregnant and Parenting Youth Guide!

This Guide is for you if you are under 18 years old, you live in California, and you are pregnant or are already a parent. The Guide answers your questions about the law for pregnant or parenting minors.

The guide, put together by the National Partnership for Women and Families, answers questions about young people’s options regarding a pregnancy, how to access health care, and provides a great list of resources for young people who are pregnant or parenting in California. The guide is fabulous – comprehensive, understanding of youth issues, not patronizing or stigmatizing of young mothers, and it’s also in Spanish! Check it out!

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This month, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health is serving up 20 DAYS OF ACA, a media, public education, and organizing effort aimed at sharing personal stories, information, and resources on how Latinas have benefited from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and how they will continue to benefit as the law is funded and implemented.

As part of our ¡Soy Poderosa! campaign, we will mobilize Latinas to commemorate this important law on its 2-year anniversary and declare their own power as health care advocates, consumers, and providers.

Starting today, we will celebrate the second anniversary of the enactment of the ACA (March 23rd), and we will watch closely as the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), the highest court of the land, holds three days of oral arguments (March 26-28) in order to review the law.

Latinas have much to gain from this important law, and even more to lose if it is undermined, reversed, or not implemented appropriately:

  • Latin@s have the highest rates of health care uninsurance among all racial and ethnic groups. Barriers to both private health insurance as well as public health programs contribute to Latin@s’  disproportionately high rates of uninsurance.
  • Those Latinas who do have access to medical care are often met with a health care workforce that is not adequately competent and sensitive to their culture and language preferences. Co-pays for even basic preventive services, including contraception, create situations where Latinas have to choose between groceries and health care.
  • Fear of bias and discrimination from health professionals due to one’s immigration status, sexual orientation, and gender identity among others also create barriers to meaningful health care.
  • The lack of a diverse health care workforce serving in communities where Latinas live puts health care out of reach for many.
  • Those without employer-sponsored coverage face prohibitively high cost and ever-increasing premiums on the individual health insurance market.
  • Eligibility rules for Medicaid, Medicare and the Children’s Health Insurance Program often deny coverage to populations of Latinas: for example by excluding those without documentation and permanent residents who have had that status for five years or less.
  • The result is that Latinas disproportionately suffer from a number of diseases and conditions, such as cervical cancer, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

However, many provisions of the ACA hold the promise of expanding meaningful access to quality and affordable health care and public health services for Latinas, their families and their communities.

So for the next 20 days, we will be unpacking the ACA, highlighting personal stories of Latinas who have already benefited from the reforms, and previewing what Latinas can look forward to as the law is further implemented. Stay tuned for new fact sheets, information on calls and webinars, and opportunities to ask YOUR questions about the ACA and what it means for you.

Hope you will stay tuned! If you have a personal story of how the ACA has positively impacted your access to health care, or you’d like to get involved in our efforts, please contact Kimberly Inez McGuire at Kimberly@latinainstitute.org.

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Since welfare “reform” in 1996, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) has presented a variety of challenges to economically marginalized communities, including communities of color and single mother-led households. Rather than serve as a safety net to help catch those who are in danger of falling into poverty, TANF’s harsh work requirements, increasingly strict time limits, and punitive treatment of childbearing have contributed to pushing people in marginalized communities over the edge. Many of the program’s shortcomings were apparent from the outset, but the economic downturn has caused federal and state budgets to contract and demand for safety net programs to rise—combined with shrinking political will, the economic situation over past few years has created a perfect storm for showcasing TANF’s structural problems. And while TANF reform—not just reauthorization or extension—is pretty much off-the-table for 2011, it is on our wish list for 2012.

As it currently stands, TANF has not been reauthorized since the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which was signed in February 2006 and funded the TANF block grant through September 2010. The program was extended through September 2011 without the TANF Emergency Fund; then it was extended through the end of 2011, this time without funding for the program’s supplemental grants. The loss of the supplemental grants has been devastating for many Latinas. TANF is funded through a block grant, which means that states receive a fixed sum of money for the program, rather than an amount of money that changes based on demand. The supplemental grants provided additional funding to states with quick population growth and historically low welfare payments. Texas, for instance, has had the highest population growth of any state over the past decade, and Latinos account for about two-thirds of this growth and now make up almost 40% of the state’s population. Meanwhile, the state’s TANF benefits for a single-parent family of three while the supplemental grants still existed were only sufficient to bring the family to between 10 and 20% of the federal poverty level (FPL); TANF and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, often called food stamps) together brought the same family to just over 50% of FPL. With the loss of the supplemental assistance grant, Texas stands to lose approximately $50 million per year, reducing its ability to provide benefits to needy Texans, at a time when need is high and assistance levels are already inadequate.


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It was by a fluke of timing that the We Belong Together delegation was in Georgia speaking out against that state’s SB 1070 copycat legislation on the same day that neighboring Alabama announced that large parts of its copycat legislation survived a legal challenge. But now that parts of Alabama’s strict immigration law have been upheld, the countdown towards implementation begins. In other words, the time has come for the wave of fear that has been building across the country to come crashing over Alabama’s growing immigrant population.

And this fear is warranted:  on its face, the law aims to lock up immigrants or drive them out of the country, or at least the state. Short of driving the immigrant population out, the law may effectively drive immigrants into the factories and the fields as it tries to ensure that they are uneducated, impoverished, and easily exploitable. As the We Belong Together delegation highlighted, Arizona’s concerns have become those of Georgia, and it is now clear that these concerns are very real in Alabama, too.


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