On April 3rd, as part of the Community Action and Social Justice Coalition‘s “Rush Week” Activities, American University’s AU Students for Choice (follow them on twitter at @aus4c) and AU American Dream co-hosted a panel on Reproductive Justice in Immigrant Communities.
I had the pleasure of moderating the panel, which included panelists Natalie Camastra and Dilcia Molina and a translator, Kathy Schneider.
Natalie D. Camastra:
- She serves as a Policy Analyst at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, where she focuses prominently on federal legislation and strategies to advance reproductive health and justice for immigrant Latinas, their families, and communities.
- Outside of work, she volunteers with Fem*Ex, where she facilitates a women’s empowerment and sexual health course at YouthBuild in Columbia Heights.
- She is a project coordinator at La Clinica Del Pueblo, a non-profit health center that serves the Latino and immigrant populations of the Washington, DC metro area.
- She also does research on Latino/a immigrants who engage in commercial sex work in metropolitan Washington
- Additionally, she devotes time to helping other immigrants who are seeking legal residence in the U.S. by referring them to pro bono attorneys.
The discussion commenced with a contextualization of the intersection of reproductive justice and immigrant communities and policies that have disproportionately impacted female immigrants. The following topics were discussed:
- Page Act- The first of many laws aimed at limiting the immigration of “undesirable” immigrants (this law primary excluded women of Asian descent).
- Sterilization- The forced sterilization of Latina women, which was introduced in the 1930s and occurred into the late 1970s. Women of color, predominantly low-income, latina women, were coerced and intimidated into being sterilized because they were considered “undesirable”. (Click here for an article on the forced sterilization of women)
- Anchor babies- “Anchor babies” are pejorative terms for the children of immigrant women, the discussion surrounding anchor babies is usually anti-immigrant, and grounded in erroneous arguments.
- The need for a path to citizenship.
- The Affordable Care Act’s exclusion of immigrant families and the added barriers it introduces to immigrant women seeking reproductive health care (for more info, click here).
After Natalie Camastra set a foundation upon which to discuss the work currently being done, Dilcia gave personal testimony about her activism advocating for immigrant women and their rights to reproductive health care. Dilcia began by explaining her personal connection to this cause. Dilcia immigrated legally, seeking asylum in the United States because of threats to her life that resulted from openly identifying as lesbian and her activist work within/for the LGBT community. Upon moving to the United States, Dilcia joked that she vowed to never get involved with activism again, because of where it got her, between chuckles however, she explained that it didn’t take long before she got involved in it again. After having lived in the United States a little over three months, Dilcia discovered a lump in one of her breasts. She knew she had to see a doctor. Due to the fact that there were no accommodations for people like Dilcia who did not yet have any proficiency in English at he medical centers near her and the fact that she could not get federal assistance to pay for her treatment since her immigration status was being processed, possibilities of being screened and treated were dismal. In most cases, especially in the cases of illegal immigrants, the only services available are emergency room visits- which do not service the reproductive health needs of women immigrants. Upon trying to navigate the health care system herself, Dilcia concluded that systemic barriers impeded the access of immigrant women like herself, to basic health care and even more so to reproductive health services. Dilcia, an activist and champion for equality, was thus drawn to the kind of work she still does- promoting reproductive justice in immigrant communities.
Dilcia currently works as a Project Manager at La Clinica del Pueblo, a Women’s Comprehensive Health center which services immigrant women. The center not only provides basic women’s health medical procedures for little-to-know cost to the women, it also hosts meetings for Latina Immigrants to discuss their relationship/ sexual health needs through their Entre Amigas program, and even has an empowerment-focused program for the children of immigrant women called “¡Empodérate! Youth Center. In addition to her work at La Clinica del Pueblo, Dilcia also refers women who need it, to lawyers who work on pro bono immigration and domestic violence cases.
Natalie Camastras and Dilcia Molina both drew attention, through our panel discussion, to the disparate barriers that immigrant women face when trying to seek out reproductive health care services. If you would like to read more about the above mentioned issues, here are some articles you might find interesting and informative:
If you’re interested in books on the topic: http://latinainstitute.org/sites/default/files/publications/NLIRH%20RJ%20Resources%20-%20Eng.pdf
If you’d like to follow the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health’s blog: http://latinainstitute.wordpress.com/