Why I Am Joining ‘We Belong Together’ in AlabamaPosted March 20th, 2012 by Mallika Dutt
It was only this morning that I learned of Erica Delgado’s story. Erica was an undocumented immigrant in Wyoming who — after being confronted by ICE agents — set fire to her mobile home, killing herself and her 11-year-old daughter. Erica was terrified that she would be separated from her daughter — a U.S.-born citizen — and deported to Mexico where her abusive ex-husband still lived and could find her once again. It was an impossible choice that resulted in unspeakable tragedy.
It is because of stories like Erica’s that I will be joining the We Belong Together campaign for the Women’s Human Rights Delegation to Alabama, where I will bear witness and stand in solidarity with the women at the frontlines of the human rights crisis erupting on our soil.
Today, the escalating “war on women” has — rightly — sparked broad outrage and urgent action to protect human rights in the United States. What is missing from this conversation are the voices and experiences of immigrant women, regardless of their legal status.
The “war on immigrants” is not a parallel crisis — it is a direct affront to women’s fundamental human rights. Laws like Alabama’s HB 56 and enforcement measures like 287g have turned the routine aspects of women’s daily lives — attending work or school, access to basic health and reproductive care, driving to the grocery store — into experiences of monitoring, fear and profound suffering. These laws devastate families, the local economy, the state and — it’s becoming clear — the soul of our nation.
Through my work at Breakthrough, I have witnessed and shared the stories of women whose lives and families have been torn apart by our broken immigration system. Women like Juana Villegas, who — while nine months pregnant — was detained after a routine traffic stop and forced to give birth in shackles. Women like Shirley Tan, who lives in fear of being separated from her partner and their two children because she is undocumented and unable to legally marry her female partner of ten years.
I am going to Alabama because each day, women like Erica, Juana and Shirley are forced to make impossible choices about their safety, their health, their livelihoods or indefinite separation from their families and communities. These are choices no women should have to make in the United States or elsewhere.
I hope you will join me in standing in solidarity with the women of Alabama and beyond to demand the recognition of immigrant women’s rights as fundamental human rights and bring the war on women to an end. Because the escalating war on women is an attack on the fundamental human rights of all women in the United States, documented or otherwise.
The only way forward is together. I’ll see you in Alabama.