SAFIRE youth speak out about scapegoating

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

By Shanelle Matthews

This week marks the second annual Latina Week of Action for Reproductive Justice hosted by NLIRH.  Centering on justice for immigrant women they posed the question “What is the REAL problem regarding the scapegoating of immigrant women?”

The scapegoating of immigrant women is woven into the condemnatory fabric that blankets this country's legislation around immigration policy. In 1875 when immigration to the United States no longer economically benefited the American capitalistic agenda, policy that separated naturalization and citizenship from immigration law was shaped to censure those coming to America to make a better life for themselves and their families.

To give some context to the lengthy history of anti-immigration reform against immigrant women, note that the result of the The Page Act, the first immigration law enacted by Congress, was the debasement of sex workers from Asia who participated in prostitution to feed their families. White westerners accused Chinese women of defiling the sanctity of marriage and monogamy in the U.S. and called for legislation banning Asian, immigrant women from entering the country. (No doubt the tarnishing of matrimonial holiness couldn’t be blamed on the righteous White man – Chinese women alone had to be responsible for the failing fidelity in U.S. marital culture.) Even though it was the male Chinese laborers “taking” jobs from White workers, it was somehow finagled that women were the root cause of economic and moral problems during the mid-19th century. Go figure.

In our story collection process for our Strong Families initiative, we have found that over 80 percent of story-tellers put women at the center of their families. Some of those story-tellers are participants in our SAFIRE program and who come from low-income, immigrant families around Oakland and have mothers or female guardians who have lived experiences of oppression and scapegoating due to their immigrant status. I thought it best to allow them to answer the question: “What is the REAL problem?"

Here are some of their answers: 
“Immigrant women are probably picked on because they are women. Women are seen as weak people. Since they’re immigrant they get picked on more because they don’t know the language. They have less knowledge about what’s going on.”

“Their seen as unfit to fulfill heavyweight jobs compared to men/fathers.”

“Maybe because the combination of a woman, an immigrant and a mother in this society is like a triple negative.”

“I think immigrant women are picked on because they are not aware of the rights they have. They might not have the resources to know their rights.”

“Because of the messages that the media and institutions put on them.”

“Because they are women of color!”
Of the 14 young women who contributed, over half said that their mother or female guardians identified as an immigrant. We asked them what issues they thought immigrant women and mothers face?
“Immigrant women face issues with not getting health care, the scare of getting deported and the lack of work that is presented to them because of their lack of English.”

“Immigrant women are often seen as “unworthy of living here.”

“Deportation, discrimination, financial problems and health care.” 

“They face being separated from their families and unfair working conditions.”

“Immigrant mothers are not treated with the respect that they deserve. Most of the time they are not able to get certain jobs because of their disadvantages.”
Whether 16 or 60 low-income women of color know why they're being blamed for institutional problems they couldn’t possibly have created. Those we charge with creating safe, tangible policy for people on the margins, including those seeking asylum, are doing everyone a disservice by criminalizing the mere existence of undocumented women in this country. ACRJ and the young women of SAFIRE encourage you to think about why it is so easy for policymakers to point accusatory fingers at the people in this country with so little. How can women struggling for survival be the cause of so much societal mayhem?

No comments:

Post a Comment