By Mallika Dutt, Breakthrough
In a historic announcement last Friday, President Obama unveiled a plan that could allow more than one million young immigrants to live without fear of deportation in the country they call home. This move is a victory for the human rights of all— and testament to the vision and tenacity of the youngDREAMers who continue to fight for immigrant rights.
But now it’s time to ask: what about their mothers?
Recent attacks on the rights of immigrant women have reached a combustion point in the United States. A quick scan of recent headlines reveals a slew of anti-immigrant rhetoric and initiatives, each more appalling than the last. We’ve seen immigrant women’s access to essential prenatal care challenged. Through PRENDA, legislators have cynically tried to inject racial profiling and discrimination into the doctor-patient relationship. And mean-spirited, even downright cruel laws like HB 56 in Alabama and SB 1070 in Arizona have had catastrophic impact on the most routine aspects of women’s lives. Under the constant threat of police harassment and possible detention, even simple daily outings — running errands, driving to work, grocery shopping, taking your kid to the doctor — become fraught with fear and very real risk. The blatant racial profiling mandated by these laws, bolstered by enforcement strategies like 287(g), has had devastating consequences for immigrant women and their families.
Ask Trini what life under these laws is like and she’ll tell you: she drops her two children off at school every morning unsure if she will be there at pickup time. She has, after all, seen other mothers in her community get "disappeared," taken from their homes and families, without notice or recourse. Ask Araceli, who has simply stopped leaving her home. She is frightened of ongoing harassment by local police, whom she no longer trusts. Or ask Jocelyn, a fourteen-year-old DREAMer who is now living with relatives because it became too dangerous for her mother to stay in the U.S.
And Jocelyn is not alone. Right now, more than five thousand children are languishing in foster care because their parents have been deported. And a growing number of parents are giving power of attorney over their children to friends, neighbors and employers because the threat of deportation and indefinite detention is too great a risk. Obama is right: we are a better nation than one that “expels innocent young kids.” Are we so much better for deporting their mothers?
If President Obama wants to make immigration “more fair, more efficient and more just” for undocumented youth, he must stand up for their mothers. And the DREAMers’ victory is a vivid reminder that we can always do better, that even in the face of extreme adversity, the better angels of our nature can prevail. It is my hope that their vision, tenacity and unfaltering optimism will inspire us, as a nation, to push harder. We must demand real, lasting reform, and defend the human rights of all immigrants.
Mallika Dutt is founder, president and CEO of Breakthrough: a global human rights organization that uses the power of media, pop culture and community mobilization to inspire bold action in support of human rights.
The views expressed here by our guest blogger do not necessarily reflect those of Rights Working Group.