Please Read This Very Powerful Speech. [Boldface in the speech mine.]
- Why doesn't the majority of well-read feminist media cover gender-related wrongs to women when those wrongs are done in the context of immigration enforcement?
- An argument as to just how gender-related these immigration-context wrongs are (that is, a call for all feminist publications & media to cover them intensely)
- In May of 2007, a young woman imprisoned at Hutto prison in Texas was sexually assaulted by a guard. Her son was in the cell while the sexual assault took place.
The media that reported the rape, the Taylor Daily Press, was unable to find out the woman’s name, where she was from or deported to, or how old her son was. Although she received treatment at the local hospital the night of the rape, she was sent back to prison after she was treated and was deported shortly after. There is no mention of rape crisis counseling in the article.
(Click here for more information.)
- Jeremy Christian Brickner admitted that Eugene Kesselman hired him to arrest Kesselman’s estranged wife and her 10-year-old daughter on the basis that an immigration judge had issued an order for their deportation.
On May 11, 2006, Brickner falsely identified himself as a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent, arrested the mother and daughter in San Francisco and detained them overnight in a hotel room in South San Francisco where they spent the night.
(Click here for more information.)
- The National Immigrant Justice Center created a video of testimonial of an asylum seeker from Cameroon. In the video, the asylum seeker details her interaction with an immigration official. The immigration official tells her that she is going to jail for four months and that immigration would be taking her one year old child away from her.
I said nothing can separate me from my baby but death or my husband. Then [the immigration official] said that she’s not even sure that my husband is the father of the child. My husband had to drive back to Wisconsin to get the baby’s birth certificate to prove he is the father of the baby.
(Click here for more information.)
- Margo Tamez wrote the following in an open letter calling for outside help after the government sent agents out to tribal lands and demanded that land be turned over to the government so they can build a border wall:My mother is under great stress and crisis, unknowing if the Army soldiers and the NSA agents will be forcibly demanding that she sign documents. She reports that they are calling her at all hours, seven days a week. She has firmly told them not to call her anymore, nor to call her at all hours of the night and day, nor to call on the weekends any further. She asked them to meet with her in a public space and to tell their supervisors to come. They refuse to do so. Instead, they continue to harass and intimidate.(Click here for more information.)
- Luaipou Futi traveled with her son Michael and his nurse to the U.s. Michael had severe heart problems and was coming to the U.S. for surgery.
But immigration officials detained Michael, his mother and nurse at the airport, locking all three of them into a room even though the only one whose passport was in question was Luaipou’s. Her son died shortly after they were finally released.
A translator for Luaipou said,"She was so happy — the minute she got on that plane — because she knew her baby was coming here … They were the first ones out of the plane. If they would let them come immediately, her baby would have still been here. Her son would have still been alive. She’s heartbroken. She can’t eat. She can’t sleep. … She’s traumatized."(Click here for more information.)
These stories detail the lives of women in the United States. Intertwined throughout these stories are experiences of gendered violence that feminists have been organizing against and writing about for decades. Rape, spousal abuse, controlling mothers through threatened loss of their children, and assumed sexual promiscuity.
And yet, there is a disturbing silence about these stories by mainstream feminist media organizations—indeed most feminist media, mainstream, radical, alternative or otherwise, simply didn’t cover these stories at all.
Even in an election year where immigration has been consistently brought up by mainstream news sources and ICE raids have been increasingly intensified, “immigration” as a topic remains "off the table" when it comes to feminist media coverage.
And when I approached different feminists about this, I’ve been consistently told “immigration is a race issue, not a feminist one”. Others have told me that feminism can not and should not fix immigratrion. Abortion rights were more pressing. Concentrating on immigration would spread feminism too thin.
But in light of the gendered experiences I have read (and that we’ve seen through the video), the question must be asked, why is there such an engulfing silence around this issue? And even more importantly, what responsibility does U.S. feminism have to those women who exist within it borders but with out the privilege of citizenship or proper documentation?
Let’s start with a little background.
The feminist movement in the U.S. has historically centered citizenship as it’s major tool in achieving gendered liberation. Susan B Anthoney fought until her last breath for the right to vote. And in the 60’s, the women’s movement centered civil rights—or the full legal recognition of constitutional rights for women as the main goals of their movement. The ERA became almost as important part of feminism as the right to vote did.
The logic behind centering citizenship as a tool to gaining liberation was that through full legal recognition as citizens, women would then have the power to claim their full personhood. Specifically, gendered empowerment would come through legal protections and the enforcement of rights granted by the constitution.
The use of citizenship the major tool in attaining gendered liberation was a conscious choice made by both the suffragettes and the ERA women.
But what these choices led to was the creation of an invisible border wall that wrapped itself entirely around the feminist movement occurring in the U.S.
This border wall made it next to impossible for those women existing in the U.S. without the benefit of citizenship papers to negotiate their way to gendered empowerment. How does a woman who is “illegal” demand the right to vote?
How does a woman that the government is actively working to deport demand that her civil rights be upheld under the law? According to the government, legally she has no civil rights, so she is not allowed to make demands.
The wall around feminism today is as impenetrable for non-U.S. citizens as it was back in the day. The bricks that crafted the wall to begin with, the right to vote and civil rights, have been sustained and reinforced by abortion rights and and our responses to domestic violence.
Again, if women in the country without proper documentation must be reported by any public service health care provider (as is required in heavily anti-immigrant states like Arizona), why does she care if Roe Versus Wade is repelled? Or, if the answer to domestic violence is to call the police, but the police are acting in the name of ICE, what are immigrant women to do when they are being beaten or assaulted?
The goals of feminism created a wall around feminism because these goals often seem unchanging, solid, and fixed. And maybe they are and were.
But I don’t necessarily believe it is feminist media’s job to change the goals of any feminist movement. I firmly feel that our goal as feminist media makers is to save the world and use a feminist analysis to do so.
And in today’s world, a post 9-11, terrorist fearing, hyper militarized world, investigating borders is an incredibly vital step to take towards saving the world. Borders and the protection of those borders is what is driving much if not most of the violence against all women today, citizen and non-citizen alike.
Now, I bet you would like to explain that statement, right? How did I connect violence against women to a post 9-11 militarized world?
Well, I’m not going to tell you. At least, not yet!
What I’m going to say is that the massive wall we have around feminism prevents us from seeing the answer. And our jobs as feminist media makers is to investigate the subjects that are actively being hidden by those in power. To uncover the truth. Our loyalty is not to a movement or an organization, but to the story. To the words that liberate the story from the bodies of people most in need of feminism.
When thinking about what to say today with my fellow panelists, we agreed it was important to leave people with ideas about what can be done....
Navigating the borders of feminism will require that we expand our understanding of them. It will also require that we recognize that we are entering into a battle that began long ago without us.
Framing is a vitally important component of the anti-immigrant movement’s agenda. They recognize that half of the battle is fought through the words that that media uses to frame the people and actions they are so against. Rightist media centerpieces...take their cue from the rightist grassroots organizations and call people in the U.S. without documentation words like “Illegal criminals” and “Illegal Aliens.” They’ve pressured mainstream news media into a “compromise” with the term “Illegal immigrant.”
What intervention can feminist media makers make into these coordinated efforts to control the words that liberate?
What does a gendered analysis bring to “framing” in immigration?
Consider the following:As feminist media makers, how we choose to answer these questions through our media making will have a direct impact on the national and international discourse on immigration. It will also contribute to the dismantling of nationalitic borders around U.S feminism.
- Are women in the country without proper documentation “illegal criminals”? Or are they women in the country without proper documentation?
- Are the detention centers that women in the country without proper documentation held at “detention centers” or are they “prisons”?
- Is the sex that is being demanded of women in return for immigration papers “bartering” or is it “rape”?
- Is the intimidation and harassment by the government of native women who do not acquiesce to land seizures “business as usual” or the continued colonization of native lands through gendered violence and intimidation?
But even more importantly, it will help to create a world in which no gendered body is marked “criminal,” where no woman has to climb a wall or apply for papers before she is allowed access to the tools that will liberate her.
This world is not only necessary, it is our only choice.
My fellow media makers, lets tear down these walls and let’s do it together.
Si se puede!