No Country for Brown Women

June 11th, 2010 · 19 Comments

By Pablo Manriquez

On 11 February 2009, Celia Alejandra Alvarez-Herrera was arrested by a sheriff’s deputy in a workplace raid during which her jaw was dislocated against a wall.  Regrettably, my notes are obscured by a teardrop that escaped me as she described being beaten with a clipboard for crying out for medical treatment while in Sheriff Joe Arapaio’s custody.

Tears were status quo yesterday afternoon in the packed committee room in the Longworth building on Capitol Hill.  Some staunch stoics (like me) fought them.  Other impassioned advocates (like Rep. Jared Polis) did not.

“They called me bitch,” Alvarez-Herrera testified, in Spanish, about her detention. “They called me ‘doggie.'”  They told her to go back to Mexico, she said.  They also threw her Bible in a trash can and would not give it back, she continued, in Spanish, in tears.

“It’s true that we’re migrants,” Herrera-Alvarez admitted, in Spanish, during her testimony, “but why don’t they ask us why we migrated?”

“Why do they ask us for papers to work but not to go to war?” she cried.

Alvarez-Herrera’s arrest separated her from her four children, she testified, the youngest being only three months-old at the time of her arrest.  Her five year-old son, she continued, nearly died during his mother’s detainment, from complications due to asthma.

Before she was arrested, Alvarez-Herrera worked as a street cleaner in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s jurisdiction — one of millions of employment opportunities just-indignant-enough during Boom Times to require brown staffers.  Once in the Arpaio’s custody, Herrera-Alvarez “never received medical attention,” according to her biography distributed to press at the hearing.  “Now, she requires continued medical treatment due to this negligence.”

Herrera-Alvarez did not come to Capitol Hill alone.  She did not testify alone before our congress.  Silvia Rodriguez testified alongside her.  Rodriguez, 23, “was left homeless when her family decided to move to another state due to the increasing anti-migratory laws in Arizona.”  At the time, Silvia was a student at Arizona State University studying for dual bachelors degrees in political science and Chicano studies.  Nevertheless, she graduated Cum Laude and has been accepted to study at the Harvard Education School this autumn.

“A group of benefactors offered to pay her tuition,” according to Rodriguez’ biography, “but may rescind the offer because of language in SB 1070 about retaliation against those who help anyone who is undocumented.”  She too fell to tears during her testimony.  “The state I call home criminalizes me,” Rodriguez said. “I did not have control over where I was born.”

Rodriguez was 2 years-old when her family immigrated to Arizona.

Perhaps the most heart-wrenching of the day’s testimony came from Katherine Figueroa, 9, whose parents were arrested by Arpaio’s deputies in a workplace raid and detained for three months.  Katherine spoke of nightmares she has in which “they” come to arrest her other relatives, as well.  “Please tell President Obama to stop putting our parents in jail,” she pleaded, in English, in tears.  “All they want is a better life for us!”

A better life, too, was why Alma Mendoza came to testify before our congress.  “My children and I survived domestic violence for 15 years,” Mendoza said, in a press release distributed at the hearing.  “Now with SB1070, women will be afraid to call the police.  They will suffer in silence.”

Rep. Judy Chu, from Los Angeles, noted that already women from Arizona are coming to California seeking services resulting from domestic abuse.

Congresspersons Chu, Luis Gutierrez, Gwen Moore, and Hank Johnson made statements, but only Rep. Raúl M. Grijavla, chairman of the ad-hoc hearing on “The Impact of Arizona’s SB1070 on Women and Children”, and Rep. Polis, stayed for the full hearing.

Tags: Civil Rights · Detention · Immigration · Mexico · Rep. Luis Gutierrez · Rep. Raul Grijalva

19 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Benito // Jun 11, 2010 at 11:15 am

    “All Men are created equal”! The founders had it right, when attempting to form a perfect union and they also knew that they were not there yet but knew we one day would get there. Lincoln moved us forward as did JFK and LBJ. This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.

    It is my contention that this AZ law is not constitutional and will fail when challenged (unless, of course, they keep adding more amendments), pretty funny for this so called perfect law, that many internet blogs claim it was copied “Word for Word” from the Federal law, which I frankly do not believe, if it was then no amendments would have been made, right?, of course.

    As for the undocumented workers, as was attributed to Ronald Reagan “It’s the Economy, Stupid”. When the economy is good we say let’s all celebrate “Cinco de Mayo, my brothers” but when the economy is down “it’s all your fault, you damn immigrant”. This too will pass. The real problem is the narcos, arms and people smugglers and that’s what the focus should be on.

    Don’t you find it funny that no one ever voted for Brewer for Governor, it’s all about politics and getting elected, do not be fooled. Busy Brewer has passed S.B. 1070, no permit conceal weapons law, the famous Birthers law, banning Ethic studies law, (could she be behind the Mural in Prescott, Arizona) and if history is a lesson she should look up Arizona’s House Bill 2779 from two years ago (which failed when legally challenged) and the craziest one the boycotted Martin Luther King Day, not wanting another holiday, how crazy is that. I believe there is an undercurrent to their enactment of new laws, they real love following a distinct pattern. Poor Brewer, last week, she first she said her Dad had died in Germany fighting the Nazi in World War II (war ended 1945) and we find out her father was never in Germany and died in California in 1955 (watch the spin doctors go into overdrive) and then she went to Washington and came back empty as always, poor dear.

  • 2 chalan // Jun 11, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    If you put a Hitler mustache on Joe Arpiao you would have completed the
    comparison. Think about it…, The Sheriff makes his prisoners wear
    degrading uniforms.., same as Hitler did to the Jews: He makes them eat
    scraps…, same as Hitler: He denigrates and destroys the self esteem of
    his prisoners…, same as Hitler. He denies basic human rights to his
    prisoners…, same as you know who. He believes in racial profiling…,
    yep another Hitler ploy. So maybe to a segment of the population Sheriff
    Joe is right. Scary isn’t it? Personally, I think Sheriff Joe is one
    sick son of a bitch.

  • 3 Chicano future tense // Jun 11, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    “All men are created equal”..yeah sure
    (unless you’re brown)..then you are just a second class citizen..
    the founders meant “All men are created equal” for white men only…not for brown,black or even white women..
    never forget that despite the whitewashed indoctrination we were programmed to believe in school and’s lies and BS..
    Governor Brewer..well besides being a damned racist and xenophobe she’s also a pathological liar..
    the situation here is that racist xenophobic whites are playing hardball on brown people..but at this point brown people are only playing softball..partly out of fear of the overwhelmingly existing white power structure in this country and partly out of confusion from lack of leadership and identity conflicts..
    …truth can often be brutal and cruel..but it can also be liberating..
    maybe one day after so many brown people are shot down and murdered in cold blood like rabbits in the desert or dogs in the street they will wake up and see reality as it really is.. much for.. “All men are created equal”..
    for brown people their only salvation is in unity..
    without unity we are never going to achieve equality and just become the permanent america underclass in a new american caste system..

  • 4 Anna // Jun 11, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Too bad we have a weak federal government that won’t even stand up to a county sheriff. It makes me sick. It also makes me angry that C-Span did not cover this.

  • 5 Reyfeo // Jun 12, 2010 at 8:46 am

    Very typical of this website. Look before you cast your stones, realize that I too feel for these people. But what do you want to do? Give everybody amnesty…you all keep griping about these (yes) very sad cases. But truth be told, they put themselves in these situations. And the children? Okay, their parents did it to them, I get it, so let’s meet in the middle for those (Children only) old enough to not know Mexico (or whatever country they came from) and are as American as you and I. Send the parents home and then work the bringing back the parents back on a case by case basis. After all that was the goal of each parent to make it better for their children right? Which spurs a question, WHY DIDN’T they do the paper work to begin with…lines TOO LONG? Okay I get that too. My gut feel (and will try to find out if there are any statistics) is that most of these folks have criminal records precluding them from getting the citizenships needed to stay. Hence impacting the kids getting legalized.
    And as for my original question, what if we were talking about 2 million Chinese and or Muslims who came here because of hardships in their countries…would you still want amnesty or are you being hypocritical and you don’t know it much less will admit you’re own racial discriminations because you’re so focused on the “Mexican” illegal alien (oops, I mean immigrant, before some of you get off track with the wording) problem in this country.
    My point is PLEASE STOP with these sob stories…what’s the solution? I have proposed one, is it good enough? And if you’re a regular on this website you’ll know I’m not for amnesty, but we do need to get on with solving this (Webby, get some stories that line a solution, else all you’re doing is pissing off both sides while never reaching a solution)…everybody else can go back home, sad story or not.

  • 6 Beto // Jun 12, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    This isn’t a sob story Reyfeo. This is the reality. Pablo reported on this hearing that took place in Congress this week.

    I have been reading this blog for months, and I notice that you only come to post contrarian points of view, which is fine, but you never back it with sources or facts. But realize that whenever you post here, you are showing some sort of approval for this website because you are increasing traffic and therefore increasing ad revenue to keep it going. But back to your rant:

    There is nothing in this piece suggesting that Pablo is pro-Mexican only or doesn’t want immigrants from other countries. Where do you get that idea?

    Most people don’t do the paperwork or fall out of line for the reasons outlined in this blog post here (and this data came from someone who worked in DHS under Bush):

  • 7 Reyfeo // Jun 12, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    So lets get on with a solution…what say you?

  • 8 irma // Jun 13, 2010 at 10:24 am


    You are a racist and a fraud.
    In the past year, you have claimed that your Mexican father got a green card in his teens and that you have personally worked in the fields of South Texas picking melons to make ends meet. Most recently, you claimed that your daughter brought home a Latino studies book from school which promoted the idea of
    insurgency against the United States. When I asked you to provide the publisher and title of the book. You were unable to do, I presume
    because no such book exists.

    Your input to this forum is deceitful and meanspirited. I do not believe you are a Hispanic or that your background is what you claim. Even Hispanics who are 2nd or 3rd generation and have no cultural ties to the country of their grandparents are parents, are not as rabidly anti-immigrants as you. As for solutions, one would be the re-education of people like you.

  • 9 airangel // Jun 14, 2010 at 10:55 am

    @chalan – Your comparison of Sheriff Joe to Hitler is apalling! First of all Jews were not criminals…they did not form gangs and murder, rape, assault, steal, smuggle and sell drugs! So as for prisoners being humiliated and their self esteem destroyed – so what? They’re not there for cake and ice cream…they are in prison for violating or killing another human being – why should they have any rights? Prison is supposed to teach you a lesson so you will not want to come back and hopefully will have learned a lesson to be a better person

  • 10 Bruce D. // Jun 14, 2010 at 11:20 am

    “Why do they ask us for papers to work but not to go to war?” This sounds like a lie to me. Can someone actually go into the military without showing identification. Employers should go to jail or heavily fined for hiring people who are here illegally.

  • 11 Anna // Jun 14, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    re: “Your comparison of Sheriff Joe to Hitler is apalling!”

    No, the comparison is accurate. Arpaio is using Hitler’s tactics of forcing a certain group of Americans to carry government papers to identify themselves. That’s how it starts. As for the rest of your post, it’s racist. Maybe we should make banksters wear markers to idetify themselves…

  • 12 Anna // Jun 14, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    re: “Can someone actually go into the military without showing identification. ”

    The point is that they don’t care if you’re a US citizen. The first US soldier killed in Iraq (2nd Iraq war) was an illegal immigrant from Guatemala.

  • 13 IE // Jun 14, 2010 at 5:22 pm


    RE: “The point is that they don’t care if you’re a US citizen. The first US soldier killed in Iraq (2nd Iraq war) was an illegal immigrant from Guatemala.”

    Can you send over where you found that information? That’s a very interesting point that I’d like to look into.


  • 14 Anna // Jun 14, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    No offense, but you’re on a computer and you have access to Google.

  • 15 IE // Jun 15, 2010 at 1:07 pm



  • 16 Joe // Jun 15, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    Lance Cpl Jose Gutierrez was not an illegal immigrant, he was a resident alien that was awaiting citizenship.

    Illegal immigrants cannot join the military.

  • 17 Anna // Jun 16, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    He entered illegally.

    LOS ANGELES — One of the first U.S. servicemen killed in combat in Iraq was not a citizen of the country for which he sacrificed his life.
    Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez, 22, a rifleman with the Marines, died in a firefight March 21 near Umm Qasr.

    Born in Guatemala, Gutierrez held permanent U.S. resident status, which he obtained in 1999.

    At 14, with his parents dead, Gutierrez followed the path of 700,000 of his countrymen to California. He made the 2,000-mile journey from his Guatemala City neighborhood without entry papers. He hopped 14 freight trains to get through Mexico. U.S. immigration authorities detained him.

    Fernando Castillo, Guatemala’s consul general in Los Angeles, says the United States doesn’t deport Guatemalan minors who arrive without family. Gutierrez was made a ward of Los Angeles Juvenile Court. He was placed in a series of group homes and foster families. He learned English and finished high school.

    When he reached 18, he got residency documents, Castillo said.

  • 18 Anna // Jun 16, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Immigrant Students Seeking Executive Order Disappointed After White House Meeting
    June 15, 2010 3:53 PM

    ABC News’ Devin Dwyer reports:

    An outspoken group of undocumented immigrants, who have met twice with senior White House advisor Valerie Jarrett to discuss the need for immigration reform, say the administration has rejected a request for an executive order to halt deportations of students who came to the U.S. illegally as young children.

    The four college students, well-known among immigration activists for their 1500-mile march from Miami, Fla., to Washington, D.C., sought presidential intervention after pending legislative measures that would provide a path to legal residency have become stalled in Congress.

    One Senate bill — known as the Dream Act — sponsored by Republican Sen. Richard Lugar and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin would grant legal status to students who came to the U.S. before the age of 15, have no criminal records, and complete schooling or military service. It would not extend protection to illegal immigrant parents. A similar measure has been introduced in the House.

    “We are extremely disappointed with President Obama and Congress for their lack of action,” said Felipe Matos, 24, who has spent the past decade in the U.S. after migrating with his parents from Brazil. “The reality is that current enforcement-only policies are terrorizing our communities across the nation and no one is taking responsibility.”

  • 19 laher // Jun 22, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    puro boo hoo! nadie les dijo que se vinieran sin papeles ni que vinieran a tener 5 hijos ahora sufren la consecuencia del el fraude y aqui hay leyes de inmigracion que dicen que si no tienes papeles te deportan. llevense a los hijos porque los dejan aqui.

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