This has been an exhausting and draining week for many UT-Austin students, myself being one. National headlines covered the Texas University’s Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) student organization that hosted a “Catch an Illegal Immigrant Game.” This game involved volunteers wearing pins with “illegal” on them and if students “caught” them and brought them back to a YCT member, they would receive a $25 gift card. Their goal was to create a dialogue about immigration…right.
As a UT-Austin student with immigrant parents, I call this blatantly racist event out as one of the most atrocious and disgusting events in my twenty years of life. University organizers and student leaders came together to voice their pro-immigration sentiments at a rally this past Wednesday with over 500 attendees and even actress America Ferrera attending. Queer organizations, ethnic studies, and a variety of cultural groups came out to stand in solidarity with the 400 undocumented UT students. Running into Brittany Yelverton, the community outreach specialist of Central Texas’ Planned Parenthood, it warmed my heart to reaffirm that immigration is an intersectional issue and reproductive justice definitely falls under that umbrella!
Looking on a larger scale in the current political climate, Congress has failed to push through a comprehensive immigration reform bill, HR15, the same legislation DREAMers are demanding for a pathway to citizenship. The Center for American Progress cites that there are currently 36 million women immigrants:
“Female immigrants, both documented and undocumented, often work in industries that are low-wage and do not offer health insurance. They may not speak English and are likely to have reduced access to culturally and linguistically competent reproductive health information and services. As a result, access to affordable, quality reproductive health care is of significant concern to these women.”
The immigration issue has always been a reproductive justice one as well.
With this in mind, failure to push through immigration reform would mean lacking the ethical safeguards for a reproductive future. Anti-choice and anti-immigration voices both work under the logic of limiting an individual’s choice to how and when they start a family, or if they choose to do so. Many undocumented students have parents who are also undocumented, and many myths criticize the parents for attempting to use their children as a method to attain citizenship and exploit resources. Bodies are being policed and choices are being denied.
In terms of legal obstacles, under the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, undocumented immigrants and immigrants who have lived in the country for less than five years “are denied Medical coverage for essential reproductive care, such as prenatal care…” This law targeted at immigrants becomes not only a racial issue, but also one denies basic health services. This denial of medical coverage creates a laundry list of services no longer provided including “breast cancer screening and treatment, family planning services, HIV/AIDS testing, and treatment, accurate sex education, and culturally and linguistically competent services.” Many undocumented students might not even go out to seek these services because of their status. Only a pathway to citizen can immigrants stop fearing to obtain the basic medical services they might need.
With this in mind, if reproductive justice activists didn’t think they were a part of the immigration movement before, they do now! In this paramount time in both our political struggles, we must stand with one another to achieve a pathway to citizenship and access to reproductive health services. A powerful phrase in the pro-immigration community is “Undocumented, Unapologetic, and Unafraid” and reproductive justice activists are also amazingly unapologetic and unafraid to fight for rights! We must stand in solidarity with one another because every voice counts. As America Ferrera chanted during the rally on Wednesday, “Si, se puede!” (Yes, we can!)