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Women and Children Hardest Hit By Arizona Immigration Law

Women and Children Hardest Hit By Arizona Immigration Law

Cecilia Alejandra Alvarez Herrera is a working mother of four children.  While at her job sheriff’s deputies conducted a workplace immigration raid.  During the raid sherrifs slammed her against a wall and broke her jaw.  She was taken into custody but refused medical care while held by authorities.  She was eventually released but requires continued medical treatment from the raid.  Catherine, a nine-year old girl, came home from school to find her parents missing.  She received a phone call from immigration officials informing her that her parents had been detained while authorities determined their immigration status.  Some of these detentions last for several months.  While her parents were detained Catherine had no means of contacting them nor any indication from authorities when she could expect to see them again.

These are some of the stories Congressional leaders heard in response to Arizona’s SB 1070 and the ongoing anti-immigrant fever sweeping the United States.  They are stories of a community under siege.  Migrant workers now face the very real threat of state sanctioned violence with very little remedy, and laws like SB 1070 have only magnified that threat.  Many of these workers are in this country legally, yet these “sweeps” don’t distinguish at the outset from those here legally and those who are not.  And as is typical with laws that target a specific population and imperil human rights, it is the women and the children that are the hardest hit.

According to the UNFPA States of the World Population 2006, women make up 49 percent of all migrant workers.  Those that do chose to migrant illegally face significant threats in doing so.  Approximately 6 in 10 Central American women and girls are raped crossing the border from Mexico into the United States.  The situation is so bad that allegedly smugglers demand women receive contraceptive injections prior to making the crossing to avoid pregnancies as a result of rape.

The women are making the trip for economic reasons.  According to the Carnegie Endowment, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has allowed U.S. multinational corporations to expand operations and productions to Mexico, forcing smaller Mexican companies out of business and destroying local economies.   NAFTA has allowed heavily-subsidized US corn and other agri-business products to compete with small Mexican farmers, driving some 2 million farmers off the land due to low-priced imports.  Meanwhile, corn-based tortilla prices have climbed by over 50%.

And for those in Mexico who have managed to keep their jobs or find work at all, wages along the Mexican border have been driven down as much as 25% since NAFTA’s enactment.  Hourly wages now run anywhere from .60 cents to $1 an hour.  The conditions at these facilities and in these towns would cause any rational person to seek a better living somewhere else.  Housing consists of cardboard shacks next to open sewers.  There are no streetlights or police to protect the Mexicans working at these American-owned facilities.  This is the face and the reality of American economic policy in Mexico.  Americans want cheap goods and corporations want cheap labor.  But at what human cost?

Over Mother’s Day weekend an emergency human rights delegation of journalists, grassroots organizers, and feminist leaders traveled to Phoenix to document the experiences of women and children in the wake of the passage of SB 1070.  In addition to hearing testimony from hundreds of women and children it visited the Tent City detention center set up by Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County currently under and 18 month Federal investigation for ongoing civil rights abuses.  The delegation took these stories to Congress.

The stories matched the concerns that many law enforcement officers shared after the passage of the measure.  Women were afraid to access medical or social services, worried that their status would be questioned and they would be detained.  Given the already stretched thin resources of law enforcement, those detentions can last almost indefinitely, even for legal immigrants.  The women interviewed also said they wouldn’t report incidences of sexual assault, domestic violence, or exploitation because they no longer feel they can trust law enforcement.  The community is quite literally closing in on itself.

US economic policy has driven many of these women to our country and state law has now criminalized migratory women and their families.  If SB 1070 goes into effect these results will only be exacerbated and the human toll only magnified.  The human rights abuses that NAFTA has blessed across the border have now come home.  It’s time to say enough.

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photo courtesy of ki-Ga via Flickr

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329 comments

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7:13PM PDT on Sep 18, 2012

Thank you.

7:12PM PDT on Sep 18, 2012

Thank you.

10:37PM PDT on Jul 31, 2010

Scuse the typo errors.

10:34PM PDT on Jul 31, 2010

Children must not be USED to further myopic agendas.
Respect for each other must surely be focused on the needs of all our children and their futures,
I lean toward Visa work only with application at the end of the line ;BUT, I know there is a bad smeel coming out of both camps in this conflict.
My heart absolutely weeps for these children and all the others . I weep for them because of the perverted, dead, superstitious, polluted, overheating , winnertakeall pile of rags we are dressing their precious little souls in.
In this quagmire it's a thousand times easier to get a gun than find a friend.
I too played in the mercury and lead and iol of the junk yard.
Precious little ones; God help us to honour the hapy smiles on your innocent faces.
God help us; please.

8:30AM PDT on Jul 25, 2010

The machine world leaves little people in its' dust.
ego,speed, pride, power,the lusts thereof.
A true portrait in the picture above.
Poisoned earth, auto boneyard playground.
Like do we need a 100 million more cars in China?
What a price we shall reap.
Live locally as much as you can.

9:10PM PDT on Jul 6, 2010

well it is official now, our tax dollars being wasted for what the feds could but would not do... Go Arizona we support you. amnesty supporters all need to be jailed on treason charges. you people make me sick, humanity for everyone but your fellow citizens, shame on you all, please leave the country, how unpatriotic can you all be? we have laws, illegals chose to ignore them. so they reap what they sow. if i did something wrong and went to jail, I would not recieve such special treatments. why should they? please, the over religious BS of open boarders ect is garbage, it can not not will never work, that is a fantisy. come back to the real world. every country has immigration laws!! why is that? they work if enforced, as ours are not and see the problems we have. get a grip on reality and life. you people should send me your addresses so i know where to move when i become homeless, oh thats right i am a citizen, so i am not worthy. lmfao, what pieces of garbage you all realy are !! how do you sleep at night???

9:06PM PDT on Jun 28, 2010

johan l Deborah K and Serena P you three need to move our of the country, 1.6 million legal immigrants let in this country last year and none where poor i doubt that. this is not south africa nor never will so get off that already, sorry you people can not see what is going on, obama is an idiot on this, he has no balls to stand up for our laws and our people, he can leave too, btw i am a democrat sorry to say these days, you all will try anything you can to support illegals, yet turn your back on your own people please go away already.

7:56PM PDT on Jun 27, 2010

Steve R-I totally agree with you. I used to process Visa applications and the majority of them were Mexican. I do know some of the process (unfortunately I can't reveal anything), but I can say that I have seen applications from the 1970's who are still waiting. I will say, that what is ridiculous, is that if they list a US address AND a Mexican address, all their mail from immigration will go to Mexico and if it gets sent back, then the applicants have to write a letter asking about their status (or call) or reapply (this goes for any country).

If some of you people would actually ask an illegal alien if they had applied for a visa and when, you will be shocked to hear that a lot have.

For the record, I am not saying I am for illegal immigration. I am just trying to educate people on a little of the process.

On a side-note (and off topic)-I also agree with Thomas R in a way. Did anyone know that 90% of Native Americans live in poverty right now? That is another issue we should be taking seriously.

11:38AM PDT on Jun 27, 2010

What the Boers did in South Africa is what the europeans did in the americas. And both groups retain the unmitigated gaul to assert that they have a right to be in the countries they overran by force and in the name of Go(l)d.

6:57AM PDT on Jun 27, 2010

The circumstances of these poor Mexicans, illegal or legal unfortunately mirrors exactly the way the poor blacks live in South Africa.
The only difference being that they are mostly legal, being South Africans.
However, there are also millions of Mozambique illegals as well as from Swaziland, mocambique, Angola and others!
I feel deeply for these women and their little ones and I am sure there are a lot more horror stories.
Shame on you Arizona and double shame on your police!
They are criminals and should betransported in time to Germany in Hitler's time!
Sick and can no other State do anything about this horrible SB1070 .
Mr. Obama, do something about this please!

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