Last week, the Morrison Institute released its survey findings on issues important to Arizonans. The survey found that immigration is not a priority for many citizens polled. While we agree that legislation for public education and water quality are vital to the improvement of our communities, immigration cannot be overlooked.
Immigrant women and girls are locked away in cruel and costly detention prisons, where they’re subjected to physical and sexual abuse, strip searches, invasive questioning and tracking of their periods by U.S. government officials. Unfortunately, Arizona is complicit in these crimes against humanity.
Phoenix’s Eloy detention center is one of the most inhumane centers of atrocities. Between 2003 and 2016, 15 people died while in detention at Eloy, including five suicides. Additionally, there are frequent reports of inmates at Eloy being placed in solitary confinement simply because they identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. It has also been plagued by disease, such as a 2016 measles outbreak, which resulted because of ICE’s refusal to provide vaccinations.
The facts are as follows: on any given day 5,000 women, men and children will be detained in Arizona. Detained immigrants in our state make up 10% of detained immigrants nationwide. Arizona is one of the top five states with the most immigrant detention centers.
The mistreatment of immigrants isn’t some distant problem being fought in Washington, D.C. It’s happening right here in our state. We cannot dismiss immigration as simply a political debate – we must understand that human rights violations occur every day in our community.
Thankfully, national and local organizations share this concern. For example, the National Organization for Women has formed the “Unlock the Future” partnership with RAICES and other co-sponsors to demand that migrant families have access to necessities such as reproductive health care, feminine hygiene products and mental health care. Our Phoenix and Arizona chapters are key in achieving success.
We refuse to be complicit in the horrors occurring in our city. We stood up for immigrant women and girls December 8 at NOW’s “Unlock the Future” rally in Phoenix. We hope that fellow Arizonans will understand the necessity of speaking up and join us in this endeavor to protect our neighbors.
Sheila Ogea is president of the Arizona National Organization for Women and Toni Van Pelt is president of NOW.