Stories of Immigrant Women

The experiences of immigrant women are more complex than what currently appears in the national dialogue. They are mothers, sisters, aunts and friends; they are the backbone of our communities.

A significant opportunity exists to amplify the voices of women in the immigration discourse, and more accurately portray immigrant woman as strong and caring contributors to their families, their communities, and to society.

Help us tell their stories in the media and with policy makers. Email us your personal experience with immigration. Why did you come to the United States?  What challenges, if any, did you face?

FAMILY SEPARATION
Victoria Márquez, a janitor and Service Employees International Union, SEIU, Local USWW organizer in Los Angeles. Márquez has not seen her family in El Salvador for more than 15 years. Despite working tirelessly to put them through high school and college in El Salvador, Márquez has not been able to obtain a visa that allows her to travel back and forth between the United States and her native country. (Source: Anna Burger, SEIU Women’s eNews)

Micheline Charles, a nursing assistant and Florida Healthcare Union member, had to leave her children in Haiti for six years while she worked in a textile factor. She was finally able  to secure a permanent visa for herself and her children. (Source: Anna Burger, Women’s eNews)

PREGNANCY AND CHILDBIRTH
Two years ago Juana Villegas was arrested for a routine traffic violation in Nashville after leaving a clinic for a pre-natal visit and detained when she was unable to produce a license. Despite the fact that driving without a license is a misdemeanor in Tennessee that generally leads to a citation, Ms. Villegas was taken into custody due to suspicions about her immigration status. Ms. Villegas was jailed for six days, during which time she gave birth to a little boy while shackled to a bed under the watchful eye of the sheriff’s officer. Barred from speaking to her husband, her baby was taken from her upon birth, leading to a number of health repercussions for both mother and baby. Local police stood by their actions, calling Nashville “a friendly and open city to our new legal residents.” In a chilling display of Nashville’s “friendliness,” local police also confiscated Villegas’ breast pump. (Source: originally reported in the New York Times, Roll Call.)

Guadalupe, who was two months pregnant, had not visited a doctor. She needed to see the doctor for prenatal care, but simply could not afford to pay for insurance for the second pregnancy. She was married to a U.S. citizen but because she came across the border illegally she is ineligible to adjust her immigration status or receive health care benefits. She shared with me while contemplating [whether] to see the doctor, whether she should go back to her home country to seek medical care or get an abortion or pay her electricity bill, which was already overdue. (Source: NLIRH)

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
“Esther,” from Ghana, overstayed her tourist visa, fell in love with a naturalized U.S. citizen and married him in 2006. Then he turned abusive. “Esther” wants to stay here, and her attorney says that federal law permits it. But a backlog caused her hearing to be put off until Feb. 1, 2012, and now the matter appears headed out of the judicial system altogether…”
– The Philadelphia Daily News, Julie Shaw, Asylum Philadelphia: A look at the overburdened Philadelphia immigration court, January 12, 2011

ASYLUM
“In June 2006, men in military clothes grabbed Maria, kidnapping her as she slept in a church shelter in Angola, bound and blindfolded her and dragged her away. They beat and raped her, and interrogated her about her boyfriend’s human-rights work. Maria eventually escaped to the United States, where she sought asylum. But more than four years went by before a judge in Philadelphia heard her testimony…”
– The Philadelphia Daily News, Julie Shaw, Asylum Philadelphia: A look at the overburdened Philadelphia immigration court, January 12, 2011

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