Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Alejandra Pablos, Asylum Seeker and Reproductive Justice Advocate, Speaks Out
May 15, 2018 (Rewire.News): Alejandra Pablos, Asylum Seeker and Reproductive Justice Advocate, Speaks Out, by Tina Vasquez:
In a recent interview with Rewire.News, reproductive justice and immigrant justice advocate Alejandra Pablos spoke about her experience of being arrested at a peaceful protest in January, her recent detainment at Arizona’s Eloy Detention Center, and the work she wants to do moving forward for immigrants in the United States with criminal records.
Pablos has become a prominent activist and community organizer in the reproductive justice and immigrant justice movements, most recently working as the Virginia Latina Advocacy Network field coordinator for the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) and a member of We Testify, an abortion storytelling leadership program of the National Network of Abortion Funds. Pablos also works with Mijente, a social justice organizing network.
In March 2018, after a check-in with ICE in Tucson following her January 2018 arrest in Virginia during a peaceful protest against deportations outside of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Pablos was detained at Eloy Detention Center in Arizona despite having a pending asylum case. Pablos would spend more than 40 days in detention—a time that she found personally challenging but simultaneously affirming. Pablos made deep connections with other detained women, discussing her work with them and how she both personally and politically seeks to complicate narratives surrounding abortion and immigrants who have criminal records.
In the interview, Pablos speaks on her experience of being arrested, being detained at Eloy, the conditions at the detention facility, and what it is like to be under ICE's custody:
"...when you’re in ICE’s hands, you don’t know when you’re going to come home. It’s not like the regular criminal justice system. You can be detained by ICE indefinitely. They can hold you without a bond hearing. You may never go to court. That’s how it is for a lot of people."
Many of the women detainees Pablos met have court dates set for 2019, but ICE requires that they remain detained until their hearings. Speaking of the legal support available to detainees, Pablos said "there are a couple of [advocacy] groups working inside Eloy—Casa Mariposa and the Florence Project—but they just provide legal aid. Casa Mariposa provides some support to a very small percentage of women." Eloy Detention Center provides no support groups for women detainees, despite many of the women detainees being survivors of domestic abuse and substance abuse.
Pablos details what she calls prison-like conditions at Eloy, including a lack of access to adequate medical and mental health care, no access to interpretation services, and poor hygiene.
Going forward, Pablos says she wants to work with local organizations in Arizona to make sure domestic violence survivor groups are established at Eloy. More broadly, she wants to act to effectively combat what she calls the criminalization of immigration, or "crimmigration."
Says Pablos, "when one of us is arrested, what role do organizations play, what responsibility do they have to us? We need protection and we need people to put their bodies on the line for us or beside us. I don’t want to just have conversations about this; I want to help come up with solutions."