Translated from America’s Voice en Español.
“It’s ironic that the most prestigious university in the world has accepted me, but the state I call home criminalizes me.” That’s how Silvia Rodríguez, a 23-year-old student who was brought from Mexico to Phoenix by her parents at the age of two, describes the effects of Arizona law SB 1070 and other enforcement measures against families, women and children in her state.
Rodríguez testified at a special Congressional hearing convened by Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ).
While SB 1070 won’t go into effect in Arizona until July 29th, Dr. Sylvia Herrera, a researcher with human-rights organization Puente, explained at the hearing that its effects are already being felt at all levels: families separated, women who don’t dare report the domestic violence they suffer to the authorities or social services, or who go to California to seek help; blood banks that won’t accept donations from Hispanics; children who are afraid to go to school because they fear they won’t see their parents when they return. “It’s an emotional roller coaster,” Herrera concluded.
10-year-old Catherine Figueroa confessed that, after her parents were detained for three months after a raid in Phoenix, she still has nightmares “and I’m still afraid of the deputies.”
“Please help us. Children don’t know what to do without their parents,” the girl said, tearing up as she beseeched President Obama to intervene to keep SB 1070 from going into effect. “Please, tell President Obama to stop putting parents in jail. All they want is a better life for their kids.”
Rodríguez described how, despite the obstacles she faced by not having legal status, she completed a dual degree from Arizona State University (ASU) in Political Science and Chicano Studies. She has been accepted to Harvard University to complete a master’s degee, but as she explained, SB 1070 could sabotage those plans.
Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) thanked the panelists for their testimony and called them “true Americans.” Rodríguez thanked him, saying that no one had ever called her an “American” before. “The only time that I felt to be the slightest happy, or accepted or proud by this country was when President Obama won his presidency,” she said. “For him to not step up and fulfill his promises, really, really breaks a lot of hearts.”
Celia Alejandra Álvarez Herrera spoke about the three months she spent in detention “with a dislocated jaw,” separated from her children — the youngest of whom had been born a mere three months before she was detained in February 2009.
“I asked myself why I suffered so much just for working,” she said.
“The biggest harm (caused by SB 1070 and other enforcement measures) is still ahead of us,” she added. And she told the members of Congress: “My blood is red and I imagine yours is too. There’s no difference…please, help us. Don’t cover your ears, don’t close your eyes, don’t shut your mouths. What’s happening in Arizona is real. We’re being discriminated against.”
Grijalva and Representative Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL) demanded that the White House mount a legal challenge to SB 1070.
Gutiérrez repeated his criticisms of the Obama administration, saying that the President doesn’t need Congressional approval to halt deportations and pointing out that despite the President’s campaign promises his administration has only escalated enforcement. He accused the President of sending National Guard troops to the border “as if it were a question of crime in Arizona. It’s not just about crime in Arizona, it’s about justice.”
Here are videos of some of the witnesses who testified on behalf of the Arizona women’s delegation at the Congressional special hearing:
Testimony from Catherine Figueroa:
A message from Catherine Figueroa to the President, Congress and Sheriff Arpaio (Credit: Telemundo)
Testimony from Silvia Rodríguez:
Testimony from Sylvia Herrera: