No matter where we were born or how we feel about controversial immigration laws like Arizona’s SB 1070 or Georgia’s AB 87, surely we can agree that all people, including immigrants who lack the right paperwork, should not have their human rights violated in this country.
We, the citizens of the United States, are — or should be — above treating newcomers as if they are invisible or less than. That is the reason why the vice president of the family organization, MomsRising.org, and other women’s groups for social justice are in Georgia right now casting a spotlight on the stories of women who have had their civil rights and humanity violated due to AB 87.
AB 87, a copycat law of Arizona’s SB 1070, not only allows local police to enforce federal immigration law, but criminalizes companies and individuals who “harbor” undocumented people in any way. This includes the U.S.-born spouses of undocumented persons as well as U.S.-born adults who happen to live with an undocumented parent. This would also mean that doctors, churches and homeless shelters who reach out to people in need could be prosecuted.
There are ramifications to these laws – both personal and economic – that are never considered when legislators pass them. Georgia farms are already feeling the heat after AB 87 was passed and now there is not enough labor to harvest the millions of dollars worth of crops currently rotting in the fields. They also must compete with farms from states that do not have a similar law in place.
Perhaps more distressing is the toll such laws take on the image of the states that pass them. Not only do businesses in those states suffer from boycotts and the bad PR that come with such laws, but the whole world gets to see the civil and human rights violations due to enforcement of these laws.
The women’s delegation in Georgia is bearing witness to stories such as these: mothers separated from their children or their spouses; women who fear reporting domestic violence and sexual assault, even at the hands of U.S. citizens; women dutifully contributing to our economy, yet living in the shadows for fear of workplace and home raids by local police; racial profiling and division in their communities as one group is pitted against another.
These women are not just a statistic. They are our mothers, grandmothers and ancestors who have come to America’s shores for a better life for their children and are working hard to make it. They are our neighbors and the moms of our children’s friends. Criminalizing them is not only an affront to their humanity, but what we stand for as a country.
Elisa Batista is a bilingual journalist of Cuban and Puerto Rican descent. She writes for MotherTalkers.com, MomsRising.org and MomsCleanAirForce.org.