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45 I am interviewing a well-known local Latina advocate in a spacious, modestly furnished office in a community center on the South Side of Chicago. I met Juana Liliana1 as I was doing popular education in Chicago with other members of the Escuela Popular Norteña, a center for popular education, and collaborating with local church groups to design workshops. The project was influenced by Paulo Freire’s methods of consciousness raising and the comunidades de base of liberation theology from Latin America. This work led me to her door. A seasoned feminist firmly seated within a grass-roots organization in a predominantly Mexican community in Chicago, Juana Liliana illuminates the way she and other women maneuver, position themselves, and see the character of the violence they face, the needs they have, the support they want. She speaks at length of the specific challenges she faces supporting Latinas, often poor immigrants from Latin America who speak little English and have scant knowledge of the U.S. legal system. It is this latter group—immigrant Latinas—on whom we focus. In her discourse as in her life, Liliana weaves her way through many of the institutions I will explore in the next chapters, including the law courts and shelters. She also discusses how her organization responds to lesbians, prostitutes, and especially undocumented women who face violence. She shows how the violence faced by many Latinas is structured by immigration law. In all of this, Liliana situates herself and her work within a nest of questions of racial, class, sexual, and linguistic differences, as well as differences in immigrant status among people living in the United States. The interview lends insight to the tangle of problems generated within the multifaceted movement to stop violence against women. In this way, we can use this interview as an entry point to larger questions of structural violence, homogeneity, gender, and institutional power. At times, she tends to simplify and homogenize women and the violence they face; at other times, she resists and challenges that impulse. Difficult Maneuvers Stopping Violence against Latina Immigrants in the United States CHAPTER two 46 structural violence Background: Immigrant Latinas in a Structure of Vulnerability Immigration law has put many women in a structure of vulnerability. The history of immigration law in the United States has reflected at least two oppressive forces that are in tension: the needs of capital and the desire to maintain white hegemony. On the one hand, capital has required and relied on a ready pool of labor, sometimes drawing on a large number of migrants, especially in the industrial and agricultural sectors. In contrast, immigration law has often been a process of legislating xenophobia, fueled as it has been by nativist fears of losing white Protestant hegemony (see Haney López 2006; Takaki 1998). These two forces, or needs, have combined to drive immigration policy. Over the past centuries, legislation has taken various forms of restriction on who may enter and who may naturalize. Depending on the period, the restrictions have taken the form of placing quotas based on the applicant’s country of origin, on racial rules on who may naturalize (López 2006), and on other agreements, understandings, or administrative limitations on who may enter and under what conditions. For example, the Chinese Exclusion Act and the “Gentlemen’s Agreement” with Japan of 1907 significantly restricted the number of East Asian immigrants for many decades (see Hondagneu-Sotelo 1997). Nevertheless, during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, in times of severe labor shortage, the United States admitted large numbers of Asians, Mexicans, and others to build the transcontinental railroad, to farm and harvest, and to do factory work. The restrictions on the Chinese led to a predominance of male Chinese workers to the almost total exclusion of women. During the middle of the twentieth century, the massive bracero program imposed severe restraints on the rights of Mexican guest workers to organize or to move freely (Harvest of Loneliness/Cosecha triste 2010). Even as the United States continues to rely in significant respects on noncitizen labor, the last decade has seen a resurgence of hostility to and fear of immigration and immigrants, especially migrants from Mexico and Latin America. Mexicans have come to be seen as the prototypical“‘undocumented”’ workers (De Genova 2006);2 immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, are painted as criminal, even terrorist (see, e.g., Hagan, Levi, and Dinovitzer 2008). One consequence has been a slew of regressive legislation aimed at restricting immigration...


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