Instantes: Action for immigration reform ramps up

Instantes April 2010

Renewed energy for the immigration reform fight

Dear Activist,

The situation for immigrations in the US worsens by the day. Just this past Friday, Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed into law a racist anti-immigrant policy that essentially mandates the racial profiling of immigrants by law enforcement. Activists are responding. We've been taking to the streets to fight for our rights as Latinas, as immigrants in this country.

As conditions worsen and reform is delayed, we're going to ramp up our efforts and continue the fight. In this edition of Instantes you'll hear about how NLIRH is brining the reproductive justice message to the immigration fight and working with immigrant activists in South Texas to make their voices heard.

En solidaridad,
Silvia Henriquez, Executive Director

Bringing a reproductive justice message to the immigration march

NLIRH staff, working as a steering committee member of the National Coalition for Immigrant Women's Rights, joined immigrants, their families and allies on the National Mall, March 21, in Washington, D.C. to remind the Administration of the promises they made to the immigrant community.  That spring day under a magnificent blue sky an estimated 200,000 people formed the largest single gathering for immigration reform ever.

With an economic recession and an increasingly hostile environment - according to the Justice Department data, federal prosecutions of immigration cases rose by almost 16 percent in 2009 - we knew that it was a tall order to ask thousands of vulnerable community members to join us for the March for America, organized by Reform Immigration for America.

In the end, the distractions, the risks, the sacrifices, the 36-hour bus rides and the sore feet didn't matter. What did matter: families being torn apart by a broken immigration system and the persistent attack on women immigrant's reproductive rights. 

NCIWR prepared a 12-page rally guide that included 13 Spanish and English slogans activists could use for homemade signs.

Several hours before the 2 p.m. rally start, we wore blue t-shirts proclaiming, Salud, Dignidad, Justicia. Alongside SEIU members and others handing out tiny American flags on sticks, NLIRH staff filled every extended hand that emerged from the Metro escalator with the coalition's message (in Spanish and English) of: Right to Liberty, Right to Family. Stand up for Women Immigrants.

One woman pushing a stroller almost passed by the signs, but decided to double back after registering our message. 

“That’s what I’m talking about!” she said.

She then took three signs, one for herself, one for her school-aged daughter and one for her husband.  All three walked away with the signs held proudly in the air. 

Immigrant activists in South Texas ramp up efforts

Thousands of letters have been signed, hundreds of calls to representatives have been made, chants for change have echoed in marches, and representatives have been warned that there is a new constituency making their voices heard. The Texas Latina Advocacy Network, based in the Rio Grande Valley, has managed to organize hundreds of immigrant women, men, and children to support health care reform. In a state where there is so much anti-immigrant and anti-women sentiment, it is more imperative to highlight who are the people writing letters, making calls, and marching for a cause.

The Rio Grande Valley has never seen this level of civic engagement coming from the immigrant community. More importantly, our Texas Latina Advocacy Network has been the catalyst behind the organizing efforts to educate and organize people in the Valley in support of health care reform. The same immigrant women who once were afraid to speak out on the injustices they face every day by being treated as second class citizens have now shown boldness and fearlessness in organizing to have their voices heard and presence known in a political atmosphere dominated by those who wish they would disappear.

Immigrant women in the Rio Grand Valley are their own best advocates. They have brought their concerns to the doorsteps of their district offices in numbers that their own representatives have never seen. If it was not for their efforts, the community that they represent would not have had a say or influence in the legislative process. The true victory in the campaign for health care reform lies in the fact that immigrants who once believed they were powerless or irrelevant to the legislative process are now aware of their ability to engage with those who represent them and hold them accountable.