Tuesday, May 1, 2012

We Belong Together: Women's Delegation to Georgia, by Williana Washington-Tadlock

My name is Williana Washington Tadlock and I am a member of STAND. I became a member by getting involved in the BW Cooper campaign to fight for the rights for jobs in rebuilding our community. I am happy to say that we won that fight! With that, I became intrigued and wanted to do more. I began to attend meetings, protests, speak for my rights and help out in the office when I can. My involvement with STAND brought my community into direct fights with politicians, developers, community board members, and others to make sure that our voices are heard.

I had never been out of Louisiana before Katrina, which forced by relocation to Texas. Through my involvement with STAND I began attending Women's group meetings as a STAND representative. I was asked to go with our Women's Group to Atlanta for the We Belong Together Women's Delegation for immigrant women's rights - the second time I have left Louisiana in my life. There were women from all over the world; and the women of STAND With Dignity, and the Congress of Day Laborers represented New Orleans. The We Belong Together Delegation was designed to understand the stories of women who are living in Georgia after the passage of HB87 - a law which is intended to discriminate against immigrants, and which to me is a throwback to slavery.

The first day of the convention all the women met at a hotel suite to introduce each other, where we were from, and the organization we represent. After the introduction, we met the Georgia women's delegation. They are Latina women who want to fight for their human rights, especially after seeing the effects of HB87 on their families. For me, this experience was amazing. The women told the story of their lives - about the discrimination they go through not only in the US but in the countries they are from. There was Claudia, who is from Honduras: her husband was abusing her and threatened her by saying that her immigration status would be used against her if she told anyone. She never called police for help because she was afraid of the police. When she went with her husband to get documentation for her son she was caught by authorities and immediately deported, but he was not - her worst fears came to pass. She found her young son left in the hands of her abusive husband.

Alicia was a victim of racial profiling. She feel threatened when she takes her daughter to school or the hospital, because of police checkpoints set up since the passage of HB87. Her daughter suffers from a serious medical condition where she has convulsions in her sleep. Two years ago, she was stopped at a police checkpoint on her way to a pediatric hospital with her daughter, who had a high fever and pneumonia. She tried to reason with the officer but he made her wait 30 minutes with her sick daughter, then she was told she would be arrested for driving without a drivers license.

There were two Latinas who were traveling with us as delegates from the Congress of Day Laborers. One told the story of how she was arrested in New Orleans. She is here undocumented but her six-month-old son was born here and is a US citizen. Because of a domestic dispute, she faces deportation and the loss of her son.

I sat together with another lady on the trip to and from Atlanta, and asked her about her life. She informed me that she left six children in her country in order to come to the US to make enough money to send her kids to college. That did not make sense to me so I asked why she could not just work in her own country. She said in her own country, there is no health insurance and a job pays $50-$80 per week if you are lucky.

I wanted to understand how she came to the United States. She is from Guatemala and had to cross the Mexican border as well as the US border, where she walked across the desert all night and was picked up by a van. I asked why she did not just pay money and get a visa to come to the US. She explained that to do so requires that you own your own home, have a good job, a family, and other things that will ensure your return to your home country. Essentially, the US immigration system only allows rich people to come to the United States. Me being African American, I saw that this is just another form of slavery.

Since I have been home, I have been searching for more information about the plight of the strong women that I was honored to spend time with in Georgia. I realize that this is the fight that African Americans have struggled to overcome here for over 400 hundred years; we must come together to make sure that we are all treated equally. After all, we are all human beings, and no human being is illegal. I am Williana and I STAND with Dignity.

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