By Sandra De Anda
We collectively watched America’s frat boy Brett Kavanaugh get appointed to the Supreme Court last week, even after several protests followed women accusing him of sexual misconduct. A large gasp was let out all throughout the United States by white women; a sigh and a shrug were let out by women of color. Tarana Burke’s #MeToo movement has given women the platform to express their grievances about sexual assault. We have seen the grievances of white women’s experiences expressed in a battle over the highest court of the land, blared throughout every television across the country.
When will the grievances of undocumented women in detention, working in domestic jobs, or in transit, come to light with such enormous support and media presence?
The fear of deportation has silenced many women in dangerous situations from reporting their cases of sexual abuse. The National Network of Immigrant and Refugee Rights argues that “particularly those women who live in this country illegally — tend to be placed in situations of greater vulnerability and, through policy, can be denied access to justice.” This statement correlates with the drops of rape cases reported last year by Latinx communities in major cities including Los Angeles and Houston.
When undocumented women are detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), they face dangers from within the system. According to an article by The Intercept, there have been 1,224 complaints about abuse and misconduct, half of which by workers employed by ICE.
Within Orange County, it is safe to assume at the moment that many undocumented women are still living in the shadows here, too. In the past, transgender womxn have been held in detention at Santa Ana Jail where they’ve experienced violating and triggering strip searches, before the termination of the contract with ICE. Aside from this, many women in the county are employed in hospitality and domestic work, which means that they are, for the most part, in private quarters. The prevalence of sexual assault in those industries continues to evade the national conversation. Undocumented womxn deal with these intersectional oppressive systems every day.
Immigrant rights activists have pressed on nonetheless in OC. A series of organizations and local lawyers have created a rapid response network for deportations; they make sure to prioritize the most vulnerable cases. Furthermore, with domestic and hospitality workers, unions can be a useful to them, but they have to be willing to address these issues. They have to center labor rights around the needs of undocumented womxn.
Orange County Immigrant Youth United (OCIYU) posits feminism as vital to activism and discusses what it should look like. Christina, a member from OCIYU, says that feminism to her means, “supporting and fighting for rights we haven’t been given in the past, to reclaim our voices to stand up and demand what we deserve.”
If universal feminism exists, then everybody should be joining in the fight for immigrant rights!