Immigrants: Locked In / Locked Out

This editorial was written by the immigrant women of CCWP with input and commentary from other non-immigrant women.
The situation for incarcerated women who are also immigrants has always been difficult and becomes worse all the time. The number of people locked up in California who are not citizens has been on the increase for the past dozen years. Almost half of people incarcerated in United States Federal prisons are not native English speakers. An incarcerated woman who does not speak English in California?s English-only prisons has trouble seeking medical or legal help and certainly cannot fully function within the prison system on an every day basis. Often, immigrant families must use the translation help of young children in order to understand complicated legal intricacies of a prison system that is not designed to be helpful to anyone.
The nightmarish situation for immigrant women in prison reflects the brutal realities which immigrants face in the United States every day. Immigrants in this country, documented or undocumented, live in a continual state of struggle for survival and also of resistance. Harassment, racism and exploitation are not far away from any of us. Our human rights are constantly violated. We don?t even have full freedom to walk around without fear that the Migra (now Homeland Security), the police or the Minutemen will take the opportunity to put us in prison, deport us or beat us to death. When Governor Schwarzenegger encourages the ultra-right-wing Minutemen to help patrol the border, we see paramilitarism becoming an accepted policy in California which in turn promotes other forms of racism against immigrants.
We leave our home countries because of U.S. foreign policies that devastate our economy and politics, forcing us to leave our family and land. Entire communities are separated and subjected to double exploitation. Our situation is a direct consequence of policies like the Free Trade Agreement, the International Monetary Fund, war and occupation, sanctions, blockades and the exploitation of our natural resources.
We are forced to leave our countries because of these exploitative policies and when we do get to the United States we are treated like criminals. Now an actual wall is being built across the southern part of what today is called the United States but is land which used to be part of Mexico. This wall divides Mexican families and is intended to lock out Mexicans and other Latinos. It is similar in its racist purpose to the wall which has been erected in Palestine to lock Palestinians out of land which is theirs but is now called Israel. What a coincidence that both walls are called ?security fences?.
But there is no ?security? for immigrants in the countries which have conquered and occupied their land. Instead, since the infamous WAR ON TERROR started, we?ve seen an intense wave of attacks against non-white immigrant communities, and more immigrants are being locked up for ?security reasons?. Freedom died and democracy exploded when the U.S. sent immigrant soldiers to destroy the lives of thousands of Iraqis based on wholesale lies.
We need to understand in more detail the ways in which immigrant women are being railroaded to prison and once there are suffering in specific, terrible ways. We need to condemn the mass targeting of immigrants because it is an injury to all of us. The struggle for immigrant rights is a struggle for the liberation of people of color around the world and is our uprising here in the belly of the beast.