Foster Care as Punishment, Dying After Childbirth, and Mothers Being Deported

July 26, 2017

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Here’s our pick of news, writing, and research this week that investigates political questions at the intersections of gender, race, and region.

1. Foster Care as Punishment: The New Reality of ‘Jane Crow
Stephanie Clifford and Jessica Silver-Greenberg for The New York Times: “In interviews, dozens of lawyers working on these cases say the removals punish parents who have few resources. Their clients are predominantly poor black and Hispanic women, they say, and the criminalization of their parenting choices has led some to nickname the practice: Jane Crow. ‘It takes a lot as a public defender to be shocked, but these are the kinds of cases you hear attorneys screaming about in the hall,’ said Scott Hechinger, a lawyer at Brooklyn Defender Services. ‘There’s this judgment that these mothers don’t have the ability to make decisions about their kids, and in that, society both infantilizes them and holds them to superhuman standards. In another community, your kid’s found outside looking for you because you’re in the bathtub, it’s ‘Oh, my God’” — a story to tell later, he said. ‘In a poor community, it’s called endangering the welfare of your child.’”

2. Dying after childbirth: Women in Texas are at high risk, especially if they’re black
Madhumita Murgia for The Washington Post: “That 15-person panel, set up by the legislature in 2013, initially looked at cases from the previous two years and identified 189 such deaths. Last July, it completed a report showing rates of maternal mortality had roughly doubled between 2010 and 2012 — and that black women were far more likely to become seriously ill and die during pregnancy or within the first year after having a baby. But the task force has yet to explain the root cause or recommend how to avert future tragedies. For state Rep. Shawn Thierry, a Democrat from Houston and a black woman who had a complicated delivery in 2012, the report hit uncomfortably close to home. ‘This one statistic was blazing right off the page, which is that African American women make up 11 percent of births in Texas but 30 percent of maternal deaths,’ she said. ‘I hadn’t heard anyone discuss it.'”

3. A Warrant to Search Your Vagina
Andrea Ritchie for The New York Times: “A Government Accountability Office report on contraband searches at airports, released in 2000, reflected another form of violation. Black, Asian-American and Hispanic women, it found, were almost three times as likely as men of the same race to be subject to humiliating strip-searches. Black women in particular were more likely than any other group to be X-rayed in addition to being frisked, though they were less likely to be actually carrying drugs. The report also mentioned instances in which travelers were subjected to body cavity searches and monitored bowel movements. Such intrusive procedures are not limited to airports.”

4. The Mothers Being Deported by Trump
Sarah Stillman for The New Yorker: “We’re sharing one trend that conflicts with Trump’s rhetorical focus on immigrants who ‘are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers.’ In fact, his Administration’s agents are targeting, in large numbers, individuals for whom public-safety justifications for removal don’t apply. This includes a considerable number of women who have no criminal records and who are either the primary caretakers of young children, or the primary family breadwinners, or both…While Barack Obama’s Administration deported more than three million people, with plenty of non-felons among them, the cases documented here reflect changes from the previous Administration’s enforcement priorities—mothers, for instance, who’d been picked up under Obama and qualified for temporary legal relief, only to face swift removal, or its threat, under the new Administration. These stories offer closeups of Trump-era immigration enforcement—including the words and images of families at their center.”

5. When Black Hair Violates the Dress Code
Kayla Lattimore for NPR: “[Dorinda J. Carter Andrews’] research on zero tolerance policies and their outcomes shows that they enforce a marginalization of black girls in schools. Which can, in practice, criminalize their black identity. ‘What does a headdress have to do with learning and success?’ asks Carter Andrews. She finds it strange that hair would even be part of a dress code. It’s not a choice, but an aspect of one’s body. Which raises a question: Is a zero tolerance policy for hair — where students can be suspended without warning — less about a dress code and more about a racial code?”