As part of the We Belong Together campaign, several leaders representing the immigrant rights, women’s rights and other organizations within the social justice field travelled to Alabama in solidarity with those affected by the state’s harsh anti-immigrant law, HB 56, to hear firsthand about the experience of living under this law. We Belong Together’s delegation is co-led by Overbrook grantee NAPAWF and its Executive Director Miriam Yeung and includes a team from another Overbrook grantee Breakthrough and its Executive Director, Mallika Dutt. One of the first blog posts that I wrote for Overbrook was about this law, considered by many to be the country’s harshest anti-immigrant law. The implementation of this law is separating families with detention and deportation policies; denying access to livelihoods, housing, education and health care; and depriving many Alabamans of their human rights and civil liberties. In her blog, Ms. Yeung has stated, "when you lift the veil of sexism, racism, and xenophobia, it is clear to see that when people are being denied shelter, food, education and other basic human needs, this is a humanitarian crisis and an extreme human rights concern.“ Through this delegation, the group plans to expose and increase awareness of the situation facing these women and their families, as well as their leadership and resilience in responding to it. They have become engaged in this particular focus on women and children because these groups represent those most disproportionately affected by the law.
This delegation is particularly interesting because of its use of a gendered lens to look at immigrant rights issues and to incorporate leaders from many different sectors of the social justice field through a human rights framework. With human right at the heart of the initiative, these leaders have acted in solidarity as human rights defenders spreading these stories to broader audiences and laying the groundwork for future advocacy campaigns. Moving this out of a solely immigrants rights issue had already begun, but it is critical that these laws be challenged on multiple fronts and angles as seen in this initiative.
I am particularly impressed by the communication efforts being used to magnify the visibility and the articulation of the human rights crisis in Alabama. We can all remotely participate in this delegation visit by following participating activists’ tweets. Mallika Dutt, Executive Director of Breakthrough has been keeping her twitter followers up to date on the presentations and devastating stories that she has heard in Alabama. (Click here to view her twitter page.) Some examples include:
The delegates have also contributed to a blog explaining their reasons for joining this delegation based on their personal, organizational, social justice and human rights-based backgrounds and perspectives. Here is Miriam Yeung’s blog post, “A Blog Carnival Celebrating Our Common Humanity: ‘We Belong Together’ Goes to Alabama!”, which also contains links to statements by all the other delegates, including Ms. Dutt’s “Why I’m Joining ‘We Belong Together’ in Alabama”. Additionally, Ms. Yeung’s post and the We Belong Together website include several stories from Alabaman women and children about the law’s impact on their families’ ability to access housing, health care, employment and schooling. In some of the cases, we hear of deportation and detention tearing families apart. These arguments from the delegates and, most importantly, hearing the stories from Alabamans themselves, are extremely powerful, so I hope that you have the time to explore them.
The Foundation is proud to support women’s groups’ leaders and their partners in Alabama for taking critical leadership roles in this fight for immigrant rights and domestic human rights.