Archive for the ‘Racism’ 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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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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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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