What’s The Real Problem? Not Listening To Immigrant Women

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Commentary Human Rights

What’s The Real Problem? Not Listening To Immigrant Women

Bianca I. Laureano

What's the real problem? Not listening to immigrant women and hearing what their needs are.

Last week was Latina Week of Action for Reproductive Justice blog carnival with a focus  this year on the scapegoating of immigrant women asking: What’s the REAL problem?

Here is my response.

I think the real issue is that folks don’t listen to immigrant women. Folks rarely listen to many women as it is (you know what I’m talking about and whose voice gets heard and shared the most). What would happen if we really heard immigrant women speak? What are we afraid of? That we would need an interpreter? That their English may be better than our own? That they really aren’t taking “our” jobs? That they are not criminals? That we may discover we have no clue what the needs are of a population we claim to be an ally to?

I think about my own immigrant family. What stories and testimonies the women in my family share. I’ve written before about what they have shared with me regarding their reproductive health, choices, access to contraception, and that their testimonios were laced with fear of the oral birth control pill because of what they experienced living in their homelands before migrating. And guess what, a lot of folks don’t like to hear those testimonios. Many folks think those narratives are not worthy or important, when really they have impacted me! And don’t I matter? Don’t the women with similar testimonios and experiences matter?

Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.

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I’ve learned that I only really matter to certain people at certain times when it is convenient for them. Yet these folks forget I’m top priority in my community and my life! Loving ourselves in a world that doesn’t love us back is a daily act of subversion in the US. 

The immigrant women in my family also talk about the men in their lives. Their fathers, partners, brothers, friends, and how they too matter. How they immigrated to the US with their men. That together they created spaces for one another to survive together, to cope together, to struggle junto. Maybe folks don’t really want to hear how immigrant women love their men in ways that challenge some ideologies about liberation and oppression because they basically squash those ideals. Or maybe it’s some old school thought process that including men means ignoring women? No, that’s now how it works. If we start from a place that centers women that does not mean men are excluded, that men cannot be important or have meaning. It means we also include all genders and not just work from within a binary.

When I was homesick on my first year at grad school in NYC, away from my immediate family and crying every night on the telephone to my father, he would tell me that he and my mother know how I feel because they would cry every night together when they arrived in Washington, DC. Scared. Frustrated. Broke, Overwhelmed. Together.


And it is together that they have come to learn and challenge what it means to be US citizens, immigrants and raise a family safely within these borders. Maybe immigrant women are used as scapegoats because US folks are fearful of knowing/learning/hearing about themselves. It’s easier to make the lives of others uncomfortable and unsafe versus engaging with our own discomfort. 

You may take action today and ask Sec. Napolitano to halt Secure Communities and 287(g).