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Immigration Reform: Don't Leave Women and Children Behind

When I met Luz at an immigration detention facility in rural Pennsylvania, she was desperate to see her one-year-old son. Luz was about to be deported back to Ecuador with her teenage son, but she didn't want to leave without her baby, who, unlike the rest of the family, was a U.S. citizen.

Luz had last seen her baby a few months earlier when she left him with a friend while she went to pick up her 15-year-old son from a shelter in Arizona. The mother of two and her older son were questioned by Customs and Border Patrol agents as they prepared to board a bus to return home. When the agents discovered that Luz and her son were unauthorized to be in the country, they detained them, and transferred them to Pennsylvania with an order of deportation.

...As a parent and advocate, I continue to be haunted by Luz's story. I cannot forget the desperation in Luz's voice as she worried about what was happening to her baby boy. As a mother of two myself, I could not imagine how this could be happening in the America I know and love. Unfortunately, Luz's story is all too common. In fact, between 2010 and 2012, our country deported more than 200,000 parents of U.S. citizen children. That translates to thousands of broken families and thousands of U.S. citizen children who are forced to grow up without their parents. What I have learned since that fateful day is that many of those parents want nothing more than to be with their children -- whether in the U.S. or their home country.

Read the full blog on Huffington Post.

Untapped Potential: Refugee Youth in the City

The presence of hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians, including countless vulnerable youth, is one of the most familiar—and challenging—aspects of the current Syrian refugee crisis. Most of these displaced youth are living in cities and towns in often desperate conditions, where a very different humanitarian response is required than in traditional camp programming, where most of the long-term expertise in the humanitarian community lies. Like refugees anywhere, these youth and their families are seeking better shelter, more work opportunities and greater security than would be available in their original places of residence or in camp settings.

Women's Refugee Commission Board member Samuel Witten writes about the struggles refugee youth living in the city have to access education or jobs. Read his blog on AlertNet.

Syrian refugee girls face adolescence amid uncertainty

Syrian refugee women knit at the IRC Women's Center in Arsaal, Lebanon. This is just one of the many activities at the center which brings Syrian women and girls together.

This blog post was written by Alina Potts for our affilliate organization, The International Rescue Committee.


 A group of girls sits on cushions on the floor, warming themselves by the diesel stove. It’s cold in this high mountain village near the border with Syria, but they leave their shoes outside the carpeted room, enjoying cups of hot tea and each other’s company.

Aged from 12 to 15 years old, these girls are at our new  Women and Girls Community Center that we run in partnership with a leading Lebanese group called ABAAD.  They’ve come here to share their experiences with others who understand what they’ve been through, and to discuss the challenges they face in Lebanon.

Read more: Syrian refugee girls face adolescence amid uncertainty

Frontline health workers: Saving lives during war and disaster

 This community-based distribution agent in Malakal, South Sudan, ensures family planning is available for her community.In times of crisis, we depend on the most fail-safe of interventions: people helping people. In response to war, civil strife, floods or other disasters, a human health work force on the front lines saves lives.

It is for this reason, the Women’s Refugee Commission praises the efforts of frontline health workers and strongly advocates for their support. During an emergency, national and international assistance is rarely available in the first 72 hours. As a result, communities and their local health work force must address urgent health needs during those early days.

Read more: Frontline health workers: Saving lives during war and disaster

Are we FINALLY going to do something about rape?

Demonstrators hold candles during a candlelight vigil for a gang rape victim who was assaulted in New Delhi Credit: REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

On December 17, people around the world read in horror about the brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old student in New Delhi, India. When she boarded what she thought was a public bus on her way home from the movies with her boyfriend, she could not have imagined that she was putting herself at risk of torture and rape of the most sadistic kind. After fighting for her life for two weeks, she died from her injuries.

While sickened, I wish I could say that I was shocked. In its landmark 2005 international study on violence against women, the WHO found that in most countries, between 29 and 62 percent of women reported experiencing violence at some point in their lives. Rates vary from country to country, with Western Europe and North America reporting rates of around 25-30 percent. What puts women at such great risk?

Read more: Are we FINALLY going to do something about rape?

Thank you for everything you do to help refugee women, children and youth

As 2012 comes to a close, check out some highlights of the Women's Refugee Commission’s accomplishments and impact over the past year.

Read more: Thank you for everything you do to help refugee women, children and youth

Children Take their “Wish for the Holidays” to Capitol Hill

“Children need to be with their parents so they can succeed.  I just want to be with my family.  Please don’t take my parents away, and I promise I will be a productive member of society.”

—Letter from a young boy from Florida, read at the Wish for the Holidays press conference

Over the past few months, thousands of young people across the country have written letters to Congress as part of the A Wish for the Holidays campaign. Each letter expresses one shared wish: an end to immigration policies that separate children from their parents. Last week, a delegation of over 50 children and youth—accompanied by staff from Women’s Refugee Commission’s Migrant Rights and Justice program—visited Capitol Hill to hold a press conference with Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA). They hand-delivered the letters to the members of Congress who will play a key role in upcoming immigration reform efforts.

Read the full blog on MomsRising.com

Making Progress in Protecting Immigrants From Sexual Abuse and Assault

The Department of Homeland Security finally issues credible sexual assault protection for immigrants in detention. Will Health and Human Services follow suit?

Last week, after years of debate over whether immigrants in their custody needed protections against sexual assault, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released long-awaited draft regulations that detail the agency's plan to satisfy the requirements of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). It has taken enormous amounts of time and advocacy to reach this place, but this is a major victory. These regulations are a critical step for creating real safeguards to protect the human rights of immigrants in detention. Immigrants in detention -- who often do not speak English, are facing deportation and have little access to lawyers -- deserve the same protections as everyone who is in confinement in the United States.

Read the full blog on The Huffington Post.

Immigration Reform Picture Not Complete Unless It Includes the Face of Women

President Obama recently announced that immigration reform will be a top priority in his second term. As comprehensive immigration reform begins to take shape at long last, it is imperative that we see the face of immigrants for who they really are. According to a Pew Hispanic Research study released this spring, total illegal immigration from Mexico has drastically fallen, but 46% of immigrants still coming from Mexico are women. This data flies in the face of traditional stereotypes of migrants who cross the border in droves. The picture of a wave of single males flooding the border for work is outdated and inaccurate.

Read full blog on MomsRising.org

The Cost of Cooking Dinner: Rape or Assault

2012-12-05-12resizedCooking a meal for your family shouldn't put you at risk of rape or assault. Yet, collecting the wood or other cooking fuel essential for their survival, crisis-affected women and girls are forced to put their safety at risk on a daily basis.

While shelter, water, health care and food are provided in refugee camps, families almost never receive the fuel they need to cook that food. They must find it on their own, no matter the threat.

The longer a camp exists, the farther women and girls (and it is almost always women and girls) must go to collect cooking fuel. When they do, they risk attack, including rape and physical assault. With the average long-term refugee situation now lasting 17 years, this is clearly a huge problem.

Read the full blog on The Huffington Post.