Monthly Archives: May 2010

Keep Arizona From Stripping Citizenship Rights From American Children

Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce wants to deport American-born citizen children.

Running high on his victory in passing SB 1070, Pearce is thinking big. His next target becomes clear in a series of emails (pdf): the citizen children of undocumented immigrants. His goal: deny birth certificates to American-born babies who cannot prove they have at least one U.S. citizen parent, so that when Arizona law enforcement comes around demanding, “papers, please,” they won’t be able to demonstrate that they are American, born and raised. While he and his friends refer to these infants as “anchor babies,” that’s nothing but nativist, xenophobic, racist code for “American-born citizen children (that we don’t want).”

And as Amie Newman points out on RH Reality Check, there is a huge dose of sexism and misogyny mixed in with this anti-immigrant rhetoric. One email, which Pearce says he agrees with, reads, “If we are going to have an effect on the anchor baby racket, we need to target the mother. Call it sexist, but that’s the way nature made it. Men don’t drop anchor babies, illegal alien mothers do.” Okay, I’ll call it: referring to pregnant women in labor as dropping anchor babies is sexist.

Pearce’s correspondent, concerned about the expense of DNA tests to prove paternity in court and opening that “can of worms,” further suggests: “if the woman is illegally here, so is her baby. I also think the mandate should be retrogressive. End of story.” Hmm … perhaps fathers’ rights activists should also be especially concerned about Pearce’s plan. How would you feel if your American-born child was deported, even though you’re an American citizen?

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Why Sexual Assault Survivors Don’t Target Their Rapist’s Pocketbook

When then-Senator Joe Biden introduced the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), he said that, despite the fact that 90% of sex crimes are committed against women, “we ignore the implication: a rape or sex assault should be deemed a civil rights crimes, just as ‘hate beatings’ aimed at blacks or Asians are widely recognized as violations of their civil rights.” VAWA, which passed in 1994, was intended to provided a means for rape survivors to go after their attackers in a civil court.

While of course the preference would be to put rapists behind bars, the criminal justice system doesn’t always work to the best interest of survivors. Prosecutors pick and choose cases to pursue, and because rape cases can among be the most difficult to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt,” since there are rarely witnesses and a defense attorney will often try to paint the encounter as consensual. A civil case, however, only has to reach the standard of “a preponderance of the evidence” pointing to the guilt of the defendant. Plus a rape survivor can pursue this legal action of her own accord.

However, an intriguing piece on Slate this week asks the question, “Why Don’t More Women Sue Their Rapists?” The answer, according to Claire Bushey, is the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down part of the Violence Against Women Act in 2000. Though the court agreed that a rape survivor has the right to bring forth charges of a severe violation of her civil rights, they decided that the case should not be pursued on a federal level. Unfortunately, this means that rape survivors are at the mercy of whatever laws their states happen to have, and only Illinois, California, and New York City have passed laws at the level of VAWA.

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Stop the Forced Sterilization of Namibian Women

Michael A. Jones calls attention on the Human Rights blog to the abhorrent practice of sterilizing women in Namibia who are HIV-positive. Over the past 10 years or more, hundreds of women in Namibia have been sterilized against their will in an illegal yet widespread practice.

Whenever an HIV-positive woman walks into a hospital in Namibia, should could end up walking out without the ability to give children. In some cases, the forced sterilization occurs without their knowledge while they are undergoing another surgery; in other cases, women are tricked or coerced into signing consent forms under duress. Jones reports that a 31-year-old pregnant woman arrived at the hospital to give birth, where she was told that unless she submitted to sterilization, she would have to deliver her baby on her own, without medical attention. What a choice to be forced to make.

The Namibian government is now going to be facing a number of lawsuits from various organizations challenging this violation of women’s reproductive and human rights guaranteed by both the country’s constitution and international law. These groups further allege in their lawsuits that the practice increases discrimination against HIV-positive persons, and that the procedure itself is unnecessarily dangerous.

Sign this petition, started by the Namibia Women’s Health Network, to tell the Namibian Health Ministry to stop the forced sterilization of women. This violation of women’s bodies and reproductive rights cannot be allowed to continue.

Photo credit: Liv Unni Sødem

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American Academy of Pediatrics Changes Tune on Female Genital Mutilation

Earlier this month, I wrote about the decision of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to support doctors giving a genital “nick” to girls’ clitorises, to appease the demands of conservative, pro-mutilation tradition.

The AAP’s claim that this would be beneficial in establishing trust between pediatricians and immigrant communities, keeping them from sending their daughters abroad for a traditional genital mutilation (since the practice is illegal in the United States), raised quite a tizzy of controversy.

Well, now the AAP is back to its old tune: no female genital mutilation, not even a little bit. Psychology Today reports that an email from the AAP states that it “reaffirms it’s strong opposition to FGC [female genital circumcision] and counsels its members not to perform such procedures. As typically practiced, FGC can be life-threatening. Little girls who escape death are still vulnerable to sterility, infection, and psychological trauma.” The email continues, “The AAP does not endorse the practice of offering a ‘clitoral nick.’ This minimal pinprick is forbidden under federal law and the AAP does not recommend it to its members.” Hmm, forbidden under federal law — could the AAP’s previous statement gotten it into a spot of legal trouble?

In trying to serve families who have a cultural attachment to FGM, AAP President Dr. Judith S. Palfrey says, “We’re saying don’t do it. Do everything that you can to support that family in this tough time, but don’t be pulled into the procedure.” Groups such as Equality Now opposed the the “clitoral nick” as giving official sanction to a practice that inroads are being made toward eradicating completely, and undermining the efforts of some mothers to stand, with their doctor, against a husband who wants the procedure done.

Hopefully, this helps to keep little girls healthy and safe from violence. But as long as they can be shipped off without consequence to other countries for dangerous genital mutilation, there’s plenty to worry about. Sign this petition to ask Congress to impose criminal penalties for sending a girl abroad for the purpose of mutilating her.

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Rage Against the Machine and Kanye West Join Shakira Against Arizona SB 1070

Right off the bat, Shakira was vocal about her concerns regarding SB 1070’s impact on immigrant women, those victims of domestic abuse. Ricky Martin has also been loud and proud in his denunciation of a law that will probably lead to racial profiling: “The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community knows all too well how easily people who ‘look different’ can be singled out for harassment and prosecution.”

Now, they are joined in their opposition by a number of artists who have pledged to boycott Arizona as part of “The Sound Strike,” started by Zach de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine. In an open letter, de la Rocha states, “Some of us grew up dealing with racial profiling, but this law (SB 1070) takes it to a whole new low,” de la Rocha writes in an open letter on the campaign’s website. “If other states follow the direction of the Arizona government, we could be headed towards a pre-civil rights era reality. This unjust law was set into motion by the same Arizona government that refused to acknowledge Martin Luther King Jr. day as a national holiday.”

The letter continues by invoking Rosa Parks’ act of civil disobedience that sparked the Montgomery bus boycotts. de la Rocha asks, “What if we got together, signed a collective letter saying, ‘we’re not going to ride the bus’, saying we are not going to comply. We are not going to play in Arizona. We are going to boycott Arizona!” Artists are requested to sign up and pledge to withdraw their playing power from a state that is violating civil and human rights.

Other members of the artist boycott include Kanye West, Rise Against, Calle 13, Los Tigres del Norte, Cypress Hill, Juanes, Joe Satriani, Massive Attack, Sonic Youth, Tenacious D, Serj Tankian, and Michael Moore.

Photo credit: Scott Penner

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American-Born Citizen Wrongfully Detained for Looking Mexican

“Because of the way I look, I have Mexican features, they pretty much assumed that my papers were fake,” Eduardo Caraballo commented after spending the weekend in jail, detained by federal immigration authorities in Chicago.

Caraballo was born an American citizen in Puerto Rico and moved to the mainland United States at eight months old. Last week, he was arrested in connection with a car robbery (he denies involvement and the case remains under investigation), but instead of being released on bail, like any American citizen is supposed to be, the Huffington Post reports that he was detained as an undocumented immigrant and threatened with deportation. Despite showing ID and even a birth certificate, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) apparently decided he “looked” Mexican and must be using fake papers. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) had to intervene on his behalf to get Caraballo released after three days in jail.

Puerto Ricans are vulnerable to racial profiling due to Latino features and Spanish accents, combined with often being asked to provide green cards they don’t have — because, you know, Puerto Rico is part of the United States and people born there are American citizens. Of additional concern, a law passed in December decided that, as of July 1st, Puerto Ricans who did not get a new birth certificate this year will find themselves with their old ones invalidated and without proof of citizenship, which could be a catastrophe for those who haven’t heard they need new documentation. Caraballo faced detention and the threat of deportation even with valid documents: what will happen to other U.S. citizens after this change?

Rep. Gutierrez, also of Puerto Rican descent, hopes Caraballo’s situation will call attention to the problem of racial profiling and wrongful detention in the immigration system. “We know of instances in which young people in his same situation are actually taken to the border and deported from the United States,” Rep. Gutierrez points out.

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Police Shouldn’t Respond to Rape Allegations From 8-Year-Olds?

This week in Britain, two boys, aged 10 and 11, were found guilty of attempted rape of an 8-year-old. They will now be added to the sex offender registry; the rest of their sentence will be handed down in eight weeks time.

The boys were charged after an eight-year-old girl reported that they forced her to take off her underwear, exposed their own penises, and tried to rape her. The assault was interrupted when another girl told an adult that the boys were “hurting” the victim.

I tend to agree with Cara on The Curvature that these boys probably should not be put on the sexual offender registry for life; I have problems with the sex offender registry in general, because it does a poor job of distinguishing dangerous repeated child molesters and rapists from a 19-year-old who had consensual sex with a 16-year-old girlfriend.

In fact, I’m all set to be fairly sympathetic to the boys in this situation. Though they were found guilty of committing a serious crime, the sentence, when handed down, should consider the age of the defendants (even though they were tried as adults) and the fact that their youth certainly means that a rehabilitative focus can be expected to have an impact.

Unfortunately, Cara points out that this isn’t enough for some people. Some people are trying to allege that 10- and 11-year-olds aren’t capable of committing rape, and, more disturbingly, that we shouldn’t take a rape accusation by an 8-year-old seriously. Philip Johnston writes in the Telegraph that he thinks the case should never even have been investigated or come to trial: “Why, indeed, did the authorities respond to a story of rape from an eight-year-old, who cannot possibly know what it means?”

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Pro-Lifers Might Support Abortion Rights

When polling is done on the number of Americans who identify as “pro-life” versus “pro-choice,” I’m bothered by the phrasing of the question. After all, pro-life and anti-choice are not synonyms, and pro-life and anti-choice are not mutually exclusive. People often identify as both “pro-life,” but state they don’t think women should be stripped of the legal right to have an abortion, so then they admit secondarily to being “pro-choice.”

In an article for Slate magazine, Jessica Grose explains that, despite Gallup polling that shows 47% of Americans identify as “pro-life,” this isn’t quite the victory for their side that anti-choicers believe it to be. While the number of self-identified pro-lifers has gone up, according to Pew polling, fewer people believe abortion is morally wrong in all circumstances compared to 2005, and only 18% of people believe abortion should be illegal in all cases. According to a poll from CBS News/New York Times, 58% of respondents still consider Roe v. Wade to be a good thing.

One concern about the increasing attachment to the pro-life label voiced by Amanda Marcotte on RH Reality Check is that, even if the term doesn’t necessarily demonstrate opposition to abortion being legal, it does frame reproductive rights in people minds as something negative, “anti-life.” And then there’s the simple concern that, in using a vague term like “pro-life,” which apparently can mean many different things, including supporting abortion rights, discussion simply becomes unintelligible. “Pro-life” is more of a feel-good term than an actual statement of political beliefs.

We use “anti-choice” on this blog to be clear that the issue at stake is opposition to women’s choice to have an abortion, though it is also about women’s human rights and the right to control one’s own body, so pro- and anti-choice perhaps understate the issue. Anyway, in dealing with the topic going forward, unless pro-life carries a single real meaning, it should be removed from the discussion in favor of more accurate terms, including wordier phrases such as “opponent of legal abortion,” that put us all on the same page, and that, ahem, “anti-choicers” shouldn’t be able to criticize as a biased term that make them sound bad. Somehow, I don’t think they’re going to want to give up claiming the support of all “pro-lifers,” however.

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Frog Puppet Thinks Reading and Arizona SB 1070 Is Fun

So speaking of ridiculous anti-immigrant videos, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has decided to use a frog puppet to garner support for the recently passed SB 1070 and her re-election bid. In this Arizona sing-a-long, the Kermit-esque frog tells kids what fun reading is, and then frown as the video cuts to clips of politicians opposing SB 1070 saying they hadn’t yet read the full law.


Despite the catchy little sing-a-long, reading the bill (here’s the PDF of the amended version Brewer signed, accessible from her website) doesn’t change the opposition to it. I’d guess that the people shown in these out-of-date clips used in this ad have gotten around to testing their literacy skills by now, and the “papers, please” gist of the law is pretty clear. Shall we test our reading comprehension further?

The amended provision in the bill that says that law enforcement “may not consider race, color or national origin in the enforcement of this section except to the extent permitted by the United States or Arizona constitution,” isn’t barring racial profiling: it’s just recognizing that it’s already not permitted under the Constitution. Yet the design of the bill is such that it will encourage violation of people’s rights. We could all try reading (you can even watch) Gov. Brewer saying, “I do not know what an illegal immigrant looks like.” You can also read that Arizona State Rep. Russell Pearce, who sponsored SB 1070, goes ahead and admits racial profiling was exactly what he had in mind: “Ninety percent of the illegal aliens in Arizona come from south of the border, so it [appearance] certainly may be a factor.”

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Save Iranian Actress Kiana Firouz from Torture and Death

In an eerie mirroring of her recent film, Cul de Sac, Kiana Firouz finds herself seeking asylum in Britain for playing the role of a queer Iranian woman seeking asylum in Britain.

As Mike Jones writes on the Gay Rights blog, Iran is so homophobic, it actually executes LGBTQ people. By playing the role of a lesbian woman fleeing Iran, Firouz (also an out lesbian) has called attention to herself and can now expect to be subject to the same penalty if forced to return to Iran. Iranian secret police are already following her around the streets of London, where she flew for the opening of her film, yet the United Kingdom Home Office thinks that if she lives a “discreet” life in her home country, nobody will come to torture and execute her, and is thus denying her asylum claim.

Um, seriously? Just be “discreet” and it’ll be fine? I think that ship sailed when she starred in a moving about Iran’s cruel and repressive treatment of homosexuality. And, by the way, a round of applause to her for making that movie. It’s important for people to be able to see a realistic portrayal of the kind of anti-gay extremism institutionalized in a country like Iran. In denying asylum to Kirouz, the U.K. is making a strong statement that it doesn’t consider political art and exposing abuses in a country to be of importance.

If deported, Kirouz will find herself immediately detained once on Iranian soil, and swiftly tortured and executed. The British ruling is a travesty of justice, essentially signing her death warrant. Tell the U.K. to grant asylum to Kirouz immediately, before it’s too late.

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