The whole area is in lockdown. Drive down Buford Highway northeast of downtown Atlanta and the vast parking lots along the once-bustling strip of Vietnamese, Korean, Cuban and Mexican groceries are empty. In September the Guatemalan pupuseria was closed and the Mercado del Pueblo boarded shut. “You used to see day laborers waiting on that gas station forecourt every morning,” Jadma Noronha, a former resident turned community activist, says. “Now, no one.”
Less visible than the boarded-up businesses is the devastating effect Georgia’s new law is having on women like Arriaga, who fears deportation as much for her daughter’s sake as her own. It’s tough enough to be poor, nonwhite and female in today’s crisis-struck USA, but without legal status a woman is stripped of even those rights and resources that equal-rights and labor fights have secured. The Wild West quality of law enforcement when it comes to such new immigration laws—amid myriad state, federal and, frankly, ad hoc regulations—makes it virtually impossible to use existing protections against harassment, violence or exploitation. And abuse thrives in the chaos. Migrant women face particular threats at the border, in the workplace, even at home—and stiff odds stacked against them as they try to keep, and raise, their kids. This is what inspired women from around the country to travel to Atlanta in September under the banner We Belong Together for a conference organized by the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. A similar delegation met in Arizona in May.
“We believe that when you see the world through the eyes of women you see an up-close, clearer picture of the full impact of what’s going on,” says Ai-jen Poo, director of the NDWA.
- From “Why Immigration Is a Feminist Issue,” by Laura Flanders