Statement of the Women’s Emergency Human Rights Delegation

Phoenix, AZ May 9, 2010

We have gathered in Phoenix on Mother's Day, a day to honor mothers as caregivers and breadwinners for their families. We stand as national feminist and labor leaders, journalists, and organizers from the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the National Domestic Worker Alliance, and Jobs with Justice to document the experiences of women in Arizona in the wake of SB 1070 and the hostile anti-immigrant environment in which it emerged. We bear witness to the brutal impacts of this legislation on women and children and the threat of similar laws nationally.

The testimony we have heard here makes clear in vivid and haunting detail how SB 1070 constitutes a violation of every principle we hold dear to safeguard women as mothers, workers and leaders. It has paved the way for assaults on the basic human rights of women who came here simply to support their families, and created an environment in which violence against women and children in every way (physical, spiritual and legal) has been state-sanctioned.

Women and children courageously recalled before us some of the traumatic experiences they have faced. Their testimony reveals the horrific consequences and enduring effects of raids, harassment and detention of family members in migratory communities – as well as their incredible spirit of resistance.

These acts rip families apart.
“I never knew this could happen,” said Catherine, age 9 and a U.S. citizen. Both parents were arrested in a workplace raid. Her grandmother said Catherine couldn’t sleep or eat for months.

These acts rob women of the right to support their loved ones.
“We come here to work and all the time we were just trying to survive,” said Sandra, Catherine’s mother. Even those who have been on the job for a long time, face increased incidents of workplace harassment. Benita, a public worker for 23 years, told us, “They give me more things to do because of my color; they’re always telling me to do something about my accent.”

These acts force women to live with physical and sexual violence
Silvia told us the undocumented parents she works with would not report a sexual assault because they cannot trust their supposed protectors. One woman put it this way: “If the law goes through, I don’t think any woman will call the police again. It will be chaos. It will be terrible.”

These acts subject women to humiliation and violence from enforcement agents.
Alejandra suffered a broken jaw when she was detained and then was denied medical care, despite her repeated cries for medical attention, and suffers ongoing problems as a result. We learned that Laura and many others were refused the most basic sanitary supplies, and were routinely mocked and degraded by prison guards.

These acts scar children and force some to parent their younger siblings.
We heard from children who watched in horror as a parent was arrested, or came home to an empty house to get a call from immigration. We learned of children who draw pictures of living in a house in a cage. “It’s not like a wound that just heals,” Esperanza told us. “They’re damaging our soul. The scars will be there forever.”

These acts rob students of access to education.
We met a brilliant student accepted to a masters’ program at Harvard and promised financial aid by a group of supporters here, who now worry SB 1070 could cause them to be jailed for providing this help. Other teenagers have dropped out of school in order to earn income lost with a parent’s detention.

These acts instill terror of those who should be protectors.
Mary Rose Garrido Wilcox from the Board of Supervisors told us she had to ask the sheriff’s office not to send representatives to the annual baseball outing for students. “The kids are so afraid of those brown shirts,” she said, “they won’t come if the sheriffs are there.” Terri said she often gives people rides to the doctor or the store. “Since SB 1070 was signed,” she told us, “a lot of people haven’t been coming out, even to get free food.”

These acts have given rise to a dynamic and growing movement of women and families.
The families of Arizona present a way forward and direct challenge to the bigotry that is spreading across the country. One young woman described students’ week-long spiritual fast against SB1070 before the Governor signed the Bill. Reading from her poem, another young leader recited, “And there is no need to debate, because my dreams are much larger than your hate.” As Sandra told us, “They have wakened a giant.” When asked what advice she has for women and girls, Catherine said, “Luchar!” – “Fight back!”

As women from a broad array of social justice movements, we commit to becoming a “microphone” for the brave testimony we heard here and others whose voices have not yet been heard in this grave climate of repression. We have been deeply moved and inspired by the resistance we have witnessed and the determination to solidify and expand this growing movement. We call on our nation’s leaders to hear these fearless testimonies first-hand and confront the realities of the people for whom they are responsible and the policies for which they must be accountable.

We are asking the leaders of the Congressional Caucus on Women’s Issues to hold a hearing for the women of Arizona to come to Washington, DC to tell their stories. We request that First Lady Michelle Obama also commit to meeting with them and hearing this testimony.

We know that President Obama could stop this insanity with the stroke of a pen by terminating the 287(g) agreements and the Secure Communities programs, which involve local police in immigration enforcement, and we call on him to do so immediately. These policies have enabled some of the most egregious abuses by local law enforcement, harassing and arresting people on small violations such as dogs barking or overgrown lawns.

The women we heard from told us repeatedly, “We are humans. We are not animals. We are not criminals.” We call on our nation’s leaders and all those committed to a just and humane society to heed these cries, stop the raids, and stop the criminalization of migratory women, their families and communities.