Violence against Latina Immigrants: Citizenship, Inequality, and Community

Violence against Latina Immigrants: Citizenship, Inequality, and Community

Violence against Latina Immigrants: Citizenship, Inequality, and Community

Violence against Latina Immigrants: Citizenship, Inequality, and Community

Synopsis

Caught between violent partners and the bureaucratic complications of the US Immigration system, many immigrant women are particularly vulnerable to abuse. For two years, Roberta Villalón volunteered at a nonprofit group that offers free legal services to mostly undocumented immigrants who had been victims of abuse. Her innovative study of Latina survivors of domestic violence explores the complexities at the intersection of immigration, citizenship, and violence, and shows how inequality is perpetuated even through the well-intentioned delivery of vital services. Through archival research, participant observation, and personal interviews, Violence Against Latina Immigrants provides insight into the many obstacles faced by battered immigrant women of color, bringing their stories and voices to the fore. Ultimately, Villalón proposes an active policy advocacy agenda and suggests possible changes to gender violence-based immigration laws, revealing the complexities of the lives of Latina immigrants as they confront issues of citizenship, gender violence, and social inequalities.

Excerpt

Angela, Claudia, Julia, Luisa, Laura, Martha, Rosa, Manuela, Ana, Susana, Clara, Silvana, Rosario, Mónica, Samuel, Yolanda, Patricia, Ramona, and Leticia were all immigrants. With or without immigration documents, they had all left their native lands to help their families survive. In love, and in pain, they had all endured intimate partner violence in the United States. Courageously and fearfully, they had all tried to break free from their abusive relationships and sought help. Some found their way out. Others did not. In this book, I explore the disparate fates of Latina battered immigrants in their search for nonviolence, autonomy, and citizenship by uncovering and defying entrenched discriminatory principles and practices still at work in this country from a feminist of color perspective.

Latina, black, postcolonial, and critical race feminisms have been particularly acute in their contribution to the struggle to end violence against women. As the battered women’s movement developed, and violence against women was redefined first as a social problem (as opposed to an acceptable private matter) and later as a human rights violation, feminists of color underscored the need to shift from universalizing to differentiated accounts. While it is true that all women can be victimized on a gender basis (as “white” liberal and radical feminists initially claimed in order to legitimize the need to end violence against women and make it a policy priority), intersecting racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds, immigration status, and sexual, religious, and political orientations also come into play in terms of the kinds of violence perpetrated, and the resources available to overcome abusive conditions.

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