Actress America Ferrera Says “Immigration Is A Feminist Issue” At The Global Women’s Rights Awards

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If the only thing you know about Actress America Ferrera is her work in films like ‘Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants’ Part 1 & 2, ‘Real Women Have Curves’, ‘How To Train Your Dragon’, and of course her award-winning role of Betty Suarez in ABC’s ‘Ugly Betty’ TV series, you are only getting half the picture.

America is not only a super talented artist, but an outspoken and passionate advocate for political issues, equality, feminism and immigration. She is very vocal supporter of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the current US Presidential race, and has even been part of various campaign events, raising awareness about Latino issues in particular.

Her activism and use of her celebrity currency was recently recognized by the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Global Women’s Rights Awards in Los Angeles, where she and four other women, including actress and abortion and reproductive rights activist, Amy Brenneman, executive director of U.N. Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, and recently elected Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, were honored for their women’s rights activism and awarded the Eleanor Roosevelt Award.

There was a full circle moment for America, who was introduced and handed her award by civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, a woman who worked to improve social and economic conditions for farm workers and to fight discrimination in the 1960s and eventually founded the National Farm Workers Association along with fellow activist Cesar Chavez.

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America explained the significance of the visibility of someone like Dolores to a young Latina like her, and how it informed her world views and passion for activism today.

“It makes it all the more surreal to be awarded this by one of the only role models I had growing up who looked like me, Dolores Huerta. To grow up a tiny Latina in California with an outsize dream that nobody really saw as possible for me — to open my textbook and to see you was so incredibly impacting in ways that you will never know,” she said, showing just how important role models are in the lives of young people.

America went on to say how her first major film, ‘Real Women Have Curves’, about the lives of Latina factory workers in Los Angeles, became a source of inspiration to other young women who now look up to the actress.

“I realized what I already knew as a young person, the power of seeing ourselves, being shown ourselves, being shown our own potential as women, as human beings, as people of color, as people from disadvantaged backgrounds. It was life-changing, to know that what I love to do and the talent that I had so desperately wanted to express had the potential to be a tool…for helping other people find their voices,” she said in her acceptance speech.

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She went on to say how the activism of Dolores Huerta changed her ambition from wanting to be famous, to wanting her work to matter.

“It’s not easy out there for most of us who don’t look like the one thing you are supposed to look like in this industry. To find roles that honor our intelligence and our humanity and our passion, and our real-life roles. When you find them, it really is a gift, and when you find people who are willing to also dedicate their time and their lives and their careers to creating those types of images, not just for us, but for our children, it’s such a gift to know them and to work with them,” she said.

One of of the more recent issues she has been focused on is immigration, especially in light of all the hateful, discriminatory comments being made by presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump. His remarks about Mexicans being “rapists” and “drug addicts” have really hit a nerve with the greater Latino community, and America was one of a number of celebrities speaking out against this. Given that immigration reform is a major issue this election, it’s important to hear the real stories away from the bigoted messages that the mainstream media seems to be playing on a non-stop loop.

In an op-ed for the Huffington Post, the actress not only schooled Trump on his bullying tactics, she also thanked him for energizing the Latino voting demographic in a way that rallies and campaigns often aren’t able to.

“You see, what you just did with your straight talk was send more Latino voters to the polls than several registration rallies combined! Thank you for that. Here we are pounding the pavement to get American Latinos to the polls, while your tactic proves most effective. Remarks like yours will serve brilliantly to energize Latino voters and increase turnout on election day against you and any other candidate who runs on a platform of hateful rhetoric,” she brilliantly wrote.

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At the Global Women’s Rights Awards, America stressed the intersection of immigration and feminism, and why this is an issue we all need to care about.

“When you talk about the immigration issue, immigration is a feminist issue as well, and we need to start thinking about it as such,” she said.

As a celebrity spokesperson for voter mobilization nonprofit Voto Latino, she addressed DREAMers (undocumented people who came to the U.S. as minors) and how their voices are going to be crucial in this election as there is a lot at stake.

“These young people now have given the government their names, their addresses, and fear retaliation. And so we have to do our best to make sure that that is not the case,” she said.

Currently, the Obama administration’s policy of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) allows DREAMers to apply for a renewable work permit and exemption from deportation.

America was asked by the press at the event whether the situation frightens her, knowing many immigrants are putting their lives at risk by openly declaring they are undocumented, and she replied that it actually saddens her.

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“I was born and raised to be so grateful that I lived in a country where my ideas meant that I belonged, and what we’re seeing now is that we’re being told that’s not the case, that no matter how much you want to be American, no matter how hard you want to work, no matter how much you have to contribute, the color of your skin, where you were born, the language you speak make you undesirable,” she said.

The beauty of increased awareness around intersectionality in the modern feminist movement, is that we can better understand how immigration should be a concern to feminists everywhere. Like any other demographic of women at risk,  when it comes to immigrants, they are at risk of a number of dangers in society.

The Center for American Progress reports that immigrant women are more vulnerable to abuse at work and at home, they come up against more barriers in trying to access adequate healthcare, and in many cases become victims of human trafficking. On the bright side, a narrative we need to keep pushing to drown out the fear mongering about immigrants pushed by the bigots like Donald Trump, immigrant women are an important part of America’s foundation today.

The CAP also reports that immigrant female business owners outpace their American-born counterparts, and statistics show they are heavily invested in making sure their children and families succeed in life. In a nutshell, this is why advocates like America Ferrera are important. She is bringing information to the mainstream consciousness, allowing the marginalized and neglected voices a platform to create change both within the narrative about immigrants, as well as in their very lives.

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  1. Pingback: Creative Studio Launches Campaign For Equal Education Opportunities For Immigrant & Refugee Women - GirlTalkHQ

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