Why I'm Going to Alabama -- Immigrant Women and Human Rights
As I was preparing to write this post about the upcoming We Belong Together delegation to Birmingham, Alabama, I came across a horrifying and upsetting story from Wyoming about a mother who killed herself and her daughter after being targeted in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid. “Friends say that after the ICE agents came, [Erica] Delgado was terrified she would be separated from her daughter, and equally frightened she might be found by her abuser.”
The sad truth is, Erica and her 11-year-old daughter with the same name as me, Miriam, most likely would have been separated and their worst nightmares come true. Thousands of immigrant parents have been forcibly separated from their U.S.-born children, and after their children are placed in child protective services, these parents find their parental rights terminated and their children lost to foster homes forever. Moreover, we’ve learned that survivors of domestic violence are treated no better, with mothers being forced to leave their children with abusive partners because they get deported.
This is happening in communities and states across America. Immigrant women are being terrorized by inhumane anti-immigrant enforcement laws that lay siege to every aspect of their life. In Alabama, HB 56 is one such policy of inhospitality and the reports of extreme human and civil rights abuses are mind-boggling in their total lack of regard for another human being. There were immediate stories of homes having their water and electricity cut off, landlords kicking families out of their homes, of teachers targeting Latino students in public primary schools to ask about their family’s immigration status, of American children being denied food stamps. And through all these reports, we know that women bear the heaviest burdens. When you lift the veil of sexism, racism and xenophobia, it is clear to see that when people are being denied shelter, food, education and other basic human needs, this is a humanitarian crisis and an extreme human rights concern.
That is why the We Belong Together Women’s Human Rights Delegation is such an important event. On March 21st and 22nd, women leaders from around the country will come to Birmingham, Alabama to bear witness to the lived experiences of immigrant women and children trying to build a life for themselves in a place with the one of the harshest and most draconian immigration laws in effect. The We Belong Together Delegation will hear, and then share, the stories of women and children affected by Alabama’s anti-immigrant bill, HB 56, in order to bring national attention and awareness to the plight of women living in the state.
The women represented in the delegation include leaders from the National Council of Jewish Women, South East Asian Resource and Action Center, National Employment Law Center, United Methodist Women, Coalition on Human Needs, Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative, and ZERO TO THREE, a children’s advocacy organization, among others. The We Belong Together delegation is an opportunity for this impressive array of women leaders from these diverse and varied backgrounds and movements, to work together to see that, in fact, we all belong together. It is an opportunity to experience that by working together, by embracing our humanity together, and it is by speaking out, with one voice, together, that we can push back against the spirit that would separate us.
That is why I am going to Alabama. Because We Belong Together. Please follow us on Twitter at #womentogether.
Miriam Yeung is the executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum and a delegate for the "We Belong Together" coalition.