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Immigrant Rights are Reproductive Rights

By Claudia Yoli Ferla, West Fund Advocacy Program Director

Harriet Tubman once said “every great dream begins with a dreamer.” Today, we are all dreamers. When I was eight years old, my family had a dream.

I was born in Caracas, Venezuela and moved to the United States at a young age along with my single mother to pursue a new life. Like many immigrants here, I learned English and adopted the values of El Paso’s community as my own.

During my high school senior year, my mother became very ill and my family decided that the best option for her was to move back to our home country. At that point I knew that I wanted to stay in the United States to pursue a higher education, that was my American Dream.

 “Every great dream begins with a dreamer.” -Harriet Tubman

Unfortunately, the biggest challenge for me and millions of other Dreamers in this country, is that some want to make our dreams unattainable, even though we have already sacrificed so much.​

We are subject to violent immigration practices that tear families apart and force immigrants to live in fear and unable to access basic needs like health care.

Similarly, anti-abortion lawmakers have undermined abortion access specifically making it harder for low-income people, people from rural communities, people of color, undocumented people and people living along the border to access the health care they need — including safe and legal abortion.

Immigrants like me were obviously, anxiously awaiting the Supreme Court ruling in Texas' anti-immigrant lawsuit on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA). Immigrants like me were also anxiously awaiting the Supreme Court's ruling on one of the country's most restrictive abortion laws and correctly named, Texas' clinic shut down law, HB2. These two cases determine all of our futures in Texas.

Reproductive justice is not just about access to health care — including safe and legal abortion. It's about the right to parent or not parent and to be able to meet your basic needs. It’s whether you and your children can stay in the same country without fear of immigration enforcement practices or being targeted by police because of the color of your skin. Health insurance is usually denied to immigrants and without it, basic health care is too expensive, inaccessible. And when an undocumented immigrant can't travel hundreds of miles to access health care, factual information, contraception, or access an abortion because of border checkpoints, then they don’t have access to that right. 

We can’t have reproductive justice until our immigration laws stops tearing families apart. Not when our current immigration system denies a parent from being present in their child's life. I'm in this fight because immigrant rights are reproductive rights.

"I'm in this fight because immigrant rights are reproductive rights."

The Supreme Court failed to reach an agreement on DACA/DAPA jeopardizing the future of 5 million immigrants, leaving them without access to healthcare and in fear of deportation. Immigrants like me are your friends, neighbors, classmates, and more. I serve on the board of the West Fund, because we are pro-family. And when we have a broken immigration system and restrictive abortion laws, then our communities are not pro-family.

Apparently when you claim something at the Supreme Court, you need evidence. Despite claiming these harmful laws protect people, anti-abortion extremists were unable to identify one person the laws had helped. So two parts of Texas’ clinic shutdown law were deemed unconstitutional meaning that more clinics would be able to open back up. But we know that rebuilding the network of abortion access in Texas will be difficult -- and more and more people need funding. 

In even better news, similar laws in Wisconsin, Alabama, and Mississippi have also been struck down or extremists gave up.

We are more committed than ever to ensuring everyone can access abortion and create the family they want — and that includes the ability to stay with your family. Just call us. 

"Just because we are not citizens, does not mean we are in the shadows."

I’ve worked with grassroots organizers who have rallied to educate thousands of voters in El Paso, and I’ve worked with community leaders to help restore access to safe and legal abortion. Despite not being eligible to vote, this is how I give dreamers like me a voice. You see, just because we are not citizens, does not mean we are in the shadows. To say we are not Americans, is to say we are different, but we live in the same cities, we go to the same schools, we speak the same languages, and more importantly, we have a common dream.

¡Hoy nuestra lucha continua!

We are an integral part of the movement for reproductive justice and we won’t let small minds tell us our dreams are too big.

Immigrant rights are reproductive rights.

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