Latin@ Victims of
10 Years After 9/11
Laura Zárate, Founding Executive Director (September 2011)
Ten years ago on September 11, 2001, I prepared an all-day training in Spanish on sexual assault issues in the Texas-Mexico border city of Weslaco. Upon news of the horrific terrorist attacks, a decision was made to continue with the training. Before we began the promotoras, community health workers who live and work in some of the poorest counties in the U.S. asked: "Señora, can we form a circle and pray for las víctimas y sus familias?"
As we celebrate "Hispanic Heritage Month" (September 15 - October 15) it is important to consider where a community that is 50.5 million strong, and projected to reach 132.8 million by 2050 (U.S. Census Bureau) actually stands within the victim advocacy and prevention contexts. Who could have anticipated the incredible anti-immigrant = anti-Mexican backlash that so many have suffered after the terrorist attacks? At least 16 state legislatures introduced SB 1070 copycat bills, and hundreds of anti-immigrant bills were proposed during the last legislative session. Many of these proposals affect all Latin@s in some way regardless of immigration status for they foment an environment of fear and hostility. The anti-immigrant backlash has stagnated meaningful crime victim outreach efforts and has promoted victim-blaming policies that have led to the destruction of countless Latin@ families (Mexican families in particular). Because victim services are not offered in a vacuum it is very likely that generations of "English Only" political environments have led to the ongoing lack of bilingual and bicultural staff and Latin@ victim/survivor outreach. In 2010, 80% of the victim assistance websites in the 16 states with half a million or more Hispanics/Latin@s did not include one word in Spanish. With a growing Spanish-speaking population (35 million) how can Spanish language access limitations within victim assistance agencies, state coalitions, and national organizations (especially those with million-dollar budgets) be justified?
The cases of Miriam Mendiola-Martinez and other pregnant immigrants detained in Arizona who have been chained, shackled, or otherwise restrained during delivery to "prevent escape," the case of Delmy Palencia, mother and New Orleans Civil Rights leader who fell victim to the Secure Communities Program after she locked her husband out of the house following a domestic argument, and the 16 detained Latinas, all survivors of sexual and/or domestic violence represented by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice in North Carolina -- are just some examples of the ongoing institutional violence against Latin@s. In 2010, the Sexual Assault Among Latinas Study (SALAS) revealed that while one in six Latinas are victims of sexual violence and they also suffer re-victimization and/or poly-victimization, only 3.3 percent utilize victim services.
In July of this year, the Obama Administration announced a new strategy against "transnational organized crime groups" that pose a threat to national security. A closer look at whom has actually been deported within this year alone, reveals that Latin@s -- though not posing a national threat at all -- have been the primary targets of deportation measures.
According to data obtained by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), of the 175,089 Deportation Proceedings held in the entire United States from January 2011 - July 2011, 136,005 (78%) involved residents of 18 Latin American countries and none of these were classified as having been charged with either a "National Security Charge" or a "Terrorism Charge."
Of the 90,472 Mexican citizens involved in deportation hearings across the U.S. during this period, 76,401 (84%) were charged with "Entry Without Inspection," "Other Immigration Charges," or "Other."
2,373 (2.62%) were charged with "Aggravated Felony."
While many victim advocates and law enforcement officers have expressed concerns that the "Secure Communities" and similar programs actually promote insecure and distrusting communities; their concerns have been overshadowed by politically-charged sound bites that promote the alienation and demonization of immigrants, including immigrant victims of crime. Many law enforcement officials actually support "Sanctuary Cities," since these environments tend to foster immigrant crime victim cooperation with police (Austin, TX example).
As a Latina-led victim advocacy and bilingual training agency (with an annual statewide grant budget of $33,983) that has focused on the Texas-Mexico Border, we are especially aware of the incredible challenges our hermanas face trying to meet the needs of survivors. In November, the Nuestras Voces National Bilingual Sexual Assault Conference will offer workshops by those in the trenches who have implemented unique outreach and engagement strategies for including all Latin@s (recent immigrants as well as first-fourth generation) as agents of change to promote safer communities and prevent domestic terrorism.
Deportation Data Source: the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC).
New User App Provides Up-To-Date Information on Deportation Proceedings.
To obtain annual state-by-state, court-by-court, hearing office-by-hearing office and nationality-by-nationality information about these deportation filings in the decade before and after 9/11 go to http://trac.syr.edu/phptools/immigration/charges/charges.php
Public Safety on ICE:
How Do You Police a Community That Won't Talk to You?
Bills Modeled After Arizona's SB 1070 Spread Through States
Final Report: Sexual Assault Among Latinas (SALAS) Study
Spanish-speaking Victim Access Report
Profile America Facts for Features: Hispanic Heritage Month 2011: Sept. 15 - Oct. 15 http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/cb11-ff18.html