Nosotros el pueblo (We the people)

Los Estados Unidos han sido mi hogar por los últimos 14 años. Es el país de mi hijo, el lugar que me dió la oportunidad de reinventarme, de iniciar una nueva etapa en mi vida, de ser madre, de desarrollarme profesionalmente. Este país me recibió con los brazos abiertos y cada día me da nuevas oportunidades y libertades para continuar mi crecimiento en todo aspecto. De las cosas que Constitution_We_the_Peoplemás me gustan y respeto de este país es el cómo se formó. Esa esencia donde el respeto a la libertad de creencias, y el respeto a las leyes son principios fundamentales, entre muchos otros el “We the people” (Nosotros el pueblo).

Desafortunadamente la experiencia de millones de inmigrantes en este país, no se compara con mi experiencia como inmigrante. Muchos confrontan abuso y explotación; las familias están siendo separadas, y viven con miedo a ser deportados. Estas familias como la mía, estamos aquí con sueños de ofrecer un mejor futuro para nuestros hijos. Las familias indocumentadas apenas pueden satisfacer las necesidades básicas de sus hijos y el estrés con el que viven ejerce presión en sus relaciones haciendo a veces difícil tener relaciones amorosas y saludables. Nuestro sistema de inmigración es un sistema que no funciona correctamente, simple y llanamente necesita ser reparado o reinventado.

El Presidente Obama, el mes pasado, emitió una orden ejecutiva donde una gran mayoría de inmigrantes que no han tenido la opción de legalizar su estadía en este país puedan hacerlo y así dejar de vivir con el miedo a ser deportados. Con esto, pienso que el Presidente está retomando los principios fundamentales con los que se fundó este país.

La orden ejecutiva es un pequeño paso, un pequeño comienzo de algo que puede convertirse en un verdadero cambio. Es la oportunidad de unirnos y hacer de los Estados Unidos un país aún más rico de lo que ya es. Todos podemos tener creencias y culturas diferentes sin perder nuestra individualidad. Dejemos a un lado el racismo, los prejuicios, y la necesidad de que las cosas tengan que verse de una sola manera.  Cada uno de nosotros tiene un papel importante que ejercer para que este cambio se dé en su plenitud. No nos olvidemos que aquellos que se encargan de aprobar las leyes y hacer este cambio trabajan para nosotros. Vamos a continuar a lo que el Presidente Obama nos hizo favor de iniciar.

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The United States has been my home for the past 14 years. It is the country of my son, the place that gave me the opportunity to reinvent myself, to start a new phase in my life, to grow professionally. This country welcomed me with open arms and every day gives me new opportunities and the freedom to continue my growth in every aspect. The thing that I like most and respect about this country is how it was formed, with a foundation of respect for freedom of beliefs and respect for the law as fundamental principles. “We the people.”

Unfortunately the experiences of millions of immigrants in this country do not match mine. Many face abuse and exploitation, are separated from their families, and live in fear of being deported. These families, like mine, are here with dreams of providing better futures for their children. But when families are undocumented, they can barely meet their children’s basic needs. This stress puts pressure on their relationships making it sometimes difficult to have loving and healthy relationships. Our immigration system is a system that does not work correctly, quite simply it needs to be repaired or reinvented.

Last month President Obama issued an executive order that allows a large majority of immigrants who previously did not have the option to legalize their stay to now do so and stop living in fear of being deported. By doing this I feel the president is returning to the fundamental principles on which this country was founded.

This executive order is a small step, a small beginning of something that can become a real change. It is an opportunity to unite us and make the United States an even richer country than it is already. We all can have diverse beliefs and cultures without losing our individuality. Let’s leave aside racism, prejudice, and the need for things to look alike and be just  one way. Each of us has an important role to play in order for this change to happen. Let’s not forget that the people responsible for passing laws and making these changes work for us. Let’s continue what President Obama has started.

¡Hagámos la diferencia! (Let’s make a difference!)

immigration-protestSabemos por nuestro Domestic Violence Fatality Review que las víctimas de violencia doméstica y sexual que están indocumentadas muchas veces no reportan los crímenes de abuso por miedo a ser deportadas. Si un crimen no se reporta no hay manera de apoyar a la victima ni de prevenir otros crimenes. Esta falta de un estatus migratorio mantiene las victimas vulnerables al abuso en su diario vivir.

¿Qué tan enterado estas de lo que está pasando con reforma migratoria? ¿Sabes cómo es el proceso para que una ley pase? ¿Te has preguntado cual podría ser tu papel en éste proceso? Si no sabes estas respuestas, es momento de que te pongas las pilas y te informes. La reforma migratoria puede llegar a ser algo que ofrecerá la posibilidad de legalizar a millones de personas indocumentadas, incluyendo muchas víctimas de violencia domestica y sexual, que viven, trabajan y aportan para que este país sea mejor cada día

Tú y yo podemos involucrarnos, informarnos, y participar de una manera más activa para que esta reforma se haga realidad. Nuestro papel es tan importante como el de los legisladores. Si nos informamos podemos informar a más personas y entre más seamos el mensaje a nuestros legisladores será más fuerte y claro. Una reforma migratoria es indispensable en nuestro trabajo apoyando a víctimas de violencia doméstica y sexual.

Tener la oportunidad de alcanzar un estatus migratorio legal en este país debe ser un derecho humano. Y hoy en día y con plena conciencia de prevenir abuso, tanto tú como yo tenemos que hacer la diferencia.

VOTA! INFORMATE! ACTIVATE! Se parte de este cambio que nos beneficiará a todos pues al final todos somos parte de ésta nuestra comunidad.

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We know based on our findings from the Domestic Violence Fatality Review that undocumented immigrant victims of domestic and sexual violence often don’t report abuse because they fear being deported. If a crime is not reported there is no way to support the victim or prevent future crimes. This lack of immigration status keeps victims vulnerable to abuse in their daily lives.

How informed are you with regards to immigration reform? Do you know how a proposal becomes law? Have you asked yourself, what your role could be in this process? If you do not know the answers, it is time to get informed and proactive. Immigration reform could offer the possibility to legalize millions of undocumented people—including many victims of domestic and sexual violence—that live, work, and contribute to make this country better every day.

You and I can engage, inform, and participate more actively to make this reform a reality. Our role is as important as legislators. If we educate ourselves, we can inform more people and the more of us that there are, the stronger and clearer the message to our legislators will be. Comprehensive immigration reform is essential in our work supporting victims of domestic and sexual violence.

The opportunity to attain legal immigration status in this country should be a human right. Today, with full awareness of how it could prevent abuse, you and I must try to make a difference.

VOTE! EDUCATE YOURSELF! BE PROACTIVE! And be a part of this change that in the end will benefit us all, because we are all part of this community, our beloved community.

Domestic violence and the Housing First model

This was originally posted on the National Alliance to End Homelessness blog.

I’ve been working on Domestic Violence Housing First for a couple of years now. But I also have a lot of experience working with immigrants. In general, I’ve found that trying to address the needs of immigrant survivors by just tweaking a mainstream system isn’t enough. One of my favorite things about Domestic Violence Housing First is that the flexibility of the housing first model allows individually tailored services that encompass a person’s culture as well as their unique needs and situation.

For example, one of the pillars of our work in Domestic Violence Housing First has been tailored, mobile advocacy. This approach involves an advocate visiting a survivor’s home rather than requiring the survivor to visit an advocate’s office. So we were caught off-guard when an advocate from a provider serving immigrants told us that her version of tailored, mobile advocacy sometimes meant inviting survivors to her office. Initially, that didn’t make sense to me.

Turns out, one immigrant she works with prefers to meet at her office, and with Domestic Violence Housing First money, the advocate can cover her transportation costs to get there.

This advocate shared that in that the immigrant survivor’s culture, it would be considered rude for the survivor not to provide food or drinks for a meeting at her home. When survivors are focused on retaining their housing, the cost of being hospitable can cause pressure and stress. So the advocate focused on making her office hospitable and their meetings comfortable. This was a great reminder to me of how important it is not to get locked into any one way of doing things. We are practicing a philosophy in which we learn to cater to the individual needs of survivors.

Survivors tell me that the tailored services that advocates provide has allowed them to regain a sense of dignity,  while advocates report that the flexibility of this model has empowered them to listen to survivors and offer support that meets the needs of the person in front of them.

Finding meaning in the Sikh killings

What do you see in this “Roots of Love” trailer, a short documentary on Sikh men?

I see pride, joy, and a clear statement of their vibrant cultural identity. I also see the struggle of this identity in a world of discrimination and hate crimes.

I am angry and sad about the hate-based killings of Sikhs in a gurdwara in Wisconsin. Many have been impacted by post 9/11 racism, and many continue to spread awareness and education in an effort to end the hatred. Struggling to find some meaning in all of this, I found some clarity and patience by reading this post, proposing that the way to address the “need for broader awareness about Sikh identity and belief” is simple. “Ask any Sikh.”

I attended Saturday’s Solidarity Vigil and was once again reminded of the importance of engaging in conversation. I am ever so certain that we need to unite to end racism and xenophobia by fully participating in each others’ lives. As I’ve said before:  “uniting to protect each others’ rights does not threaten or diminish our own.”

Living in community

I am Gujarati. As a child, my sense of family and community was really different than what I see here. In my home, cousins were as close as siblings. Aunts and uncles shared decision-making with my parents. Day-to-day life included having lots of people around, cooking together, running the household together, and sharing everything. Many of my friends who are immigrants or were raised in immigrant families tell similar stories.

Even though I have lived in the United States for 11 years now, I am happiest when I am with others who were raised, understand, or have created this type of community—whether they are Gujarati or not. I felt a lot of warmth, love, and affection growing up with my extended family all around, and I miss that.

However, there is a flip side to all of this. If you are experiencing abuse, and those in your close community don’t see it, acknowledge it, or offer support, it can be incredibly isolating. You can be surrounded by all of these people and yet feel totally alone. As an advocate for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking, I’ve heard heart-breaking stories of how immigrant survivors have had to leave their community—and all that love and support—in order to escape the abuse, while others were not able or willing to leave their community and were killed by the abuser.

http://www.mijasrestaurant.org

Recently, I met a group of women that seem to have figured out how to find safety and community. The Mijas are Latina survivors of abuse who have banded together to start their own restaurant where they give each other job training and support. (And they make fabulous food while they’re at it!!) The Mijas have given me hope and inspiration that immigrant communities can and do use the strengths of their culture to respond to domestic violence. I’m sharing their story in support, and with the hope that others can see what is possible.

Aliens are taking over the planet

A Woman who is being Abused who is an Immigrant is a Human Being. Not an alien. We call immigrants aliens so that we can conveniently forget that they have human rights. For instance, take immigrant survivors of abuse. Their immigration status has a huge impact on their options for safety. Fear of deportation keeps people from turning to the police for help. And abusers use threats of deportation to control their partners. If you are an “illegal” immigrant, you know that many people aren’t too pleased you’re here, which makes it hard to reach out for help.

When I felt the anti-immigrant sentiment in the reader’s comments on the Seattle Times article about the DREAM Act, I was disappointed and sad. In honor of International Migrants Day (December 18), I want to address a couple myths that seem to be at the heart of most of these comments:

“Illegal immigrants are breaking the law.”

Have you ever jay walked? Seriously, have you? I have. This means we’ve broken the law. So what should happen to us? After all, breaking the law has a consequence, right? Paying a fine seems reasonable. Revoking your basic rights and protections doesn’t. If you are an “alien” we can revoke your rights and deny access to the justice system, even if you are the victim of a crime. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Breaking the law is not a reason to strip away another human being’s rights and dignity.

“Why don’t you just go back where you come from?”

Do we belong to just one country? I am East-Indian, I grew up in Zambia and I have lived in the U.S. for over 11 years. I am part of the more than 215 million people who live outside their country of birth. U.S. history shows a constant stream of immigrants, despite racist anti-immigrant policies. And I believe migration has been a good thing for our country. Beyond that, sending an abused woman “home” can mean forcing her to leave her children behind with an abusive man.

When we stop pretending that people are “aliens” it benefits immigrants in abusive relationships as well as our national debate. So let’s all stop with the “illegal” and “alien” language. It simply does not make sense to us humans.

Seattle activist Pramila Jayapal shares her vision of immigration from a global perspective.