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Opinion: On International Women's Day, We Stand for Immigrant Women and Families

On Int'l Women's Day, Jessica González-Rojas of the Nat'l Latina Institute for Reproductive Health says immigrant women's humanity "is questioned."
Image: Immigration Activists Protest At ICE Detention Center In New Jersey
Spencer Platt / Getty Images

On this International Women’s Day, as we have always done, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) will close its offices to reflect on advancing our vision of a society where all women - particularly immigrant women - have the economic means, social capital and political power to make and exercise decisions about our health, family and future with dignity and self-determination.

NLIRH honors immigrant women, whose humanity is questioned, whose right to exist is criminalized, and who endure life as targets of anti-immigrant and xenophobic narratives. While we should celebrate immigrant women every day as makers of herstory, their economic, political and social achievements - past, present and future - have historically been pushed to the shadows to make space for violence and hate. We see this process unfold before our eyes as we bear witness to an administration that relies on anti-immigrant sentiments which promote policies that criminalize immigrant communities, and place immigrant women and their families in imminent danger.

Today our country nears some shameful milestones. Since 2008 there have been more than 2.5 million deportations. The detention system now captures and holds as many as 400,000 immigrant women and families each year, and the ICE death count stands near 167 detainees since 2003. These are heartbreaking examples of how current immigration policies are an attempt to terrorize, target, and demonize immigrant families across all communities and do little to address our broken immigration system. Instead, these policies endanger the lives of immigrant women while further limiting their ability to make decisions about their health, family and future.

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We will not sit idly by while our rights as women, as immigrants, as LGBTQ people, and as people of color, are trampled on. It is time to end unnecessary detentions and deportations and to advance healthcare for immigrant women and their families. Immigrant women are embedded the fabric of the United States, yet they continue to be denied basic healthcare services, live in fear of separation from their children and loved ones, and feel the brunt of inequality.

As we work towards equality, we must place the health of immigrant women at the center of our fight and work to remove harmful policies and legal barriers that currently deny millions of immigrants access to the care they need. NLIRH centers the realities of immigrant women as a reminder that equality will come when a zipcode no longer determines women’s access to the full range of reproductive health services, including abortion care, and when migratory status does not stand in the way of quality, affordable healthcare.

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For too long immigrant women have been deeply affected by restrictions and bans that push affordable care deeply out of reach, and force them to choose between putting food on the table or receiving the healthcare they need. All women deserve access to reproductive healthcare - no matter where they live, how much they make or their immigration status.

In this spirit we participate in A Day Without a Woman, a one-day demonstration of economic solidarity as we celebrate our strength and power as a movement. We are at the forefront of the fight for reproductive justice and it is up to all of us to continue to advance all women’s access to reproductive healthcare.

Our movement’s passion and vision for justice is what is going to move us forward.

¡Sí se puede! Yes we can!

Jessica González-Rojas is the executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health

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