Things That Matter

Puerto Rico’s Governor Signs New Law That Removes Many Of The Island’s Protections For Women And The LGBTQ Community

Until recently, Puerto Rico had several laws on the books that dated all the way back to when it was a Spanish colony – some 130 years ago. It was widely acknowledged that the island’s civil code needed to be updated. However, the territory’s unelected governor has just signed into law an updated civil code that many say strips away hard won civil rights protections for women and the LGBTQ community.

Gov. Wanda Vázquez signed into law updates to the civil code that put several communities at risk.

Credit: Carlos Giusti / Getty

This week, the island’s governor, Wanda Vázquez, signed into law a sweeping overhaul of the territory’s civil code – and in doing so, many say legal protections for at-risk communities have been wiped away.

The civil code hadn’t been updated since the 1930s, and many of the island’s old laws dated back to when the island was still a Spanish colony. Therefore, many experts agree that there was a need to update several laws in a way that reflects today’s modern society.

After Puerto Rico’s constitution, the island’s civil code is the most significant legal document in the territory. But the new civil code infringes upon the “human rights gains of women and LGBTQI+ people” by giving rights to fetuses, limiting people’s ability to amend their birth certificates in ways that are consistent with their gender identities and failing to “explicitly prohibit discrimination,” according to the advocacy group Comité Amplio para la Búsqueda de Equidad, which loosely translates to the Committee for Equity.

Law experts and civil rights activists were quick to express concern and outrage over the move.

Everyone from legal experts and civil rights activists to Puerto Rican celebrities (including Ricky Martin) have spoken out against the update and many say some of the laws represent a historical setback. In fact, the word “discrimination” doesn’t appear in the new civil code at all.

“Puerto Rico’s governor signed into law significant revisions to the island’s civil codes that shamefully ignore the urgent calls of local advocates to explicitly include vital, comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ residents,” said Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David in a statement. “The government has failed to carry out its primary duty of ensuring the safety and well-being of all Puerto Ricans, including LGBTQ Puerto Ricans.”

The move also comes as Puerto Rico’s LGBTQ community – especially the trans community – is under increased attack.

The new civil code, which doesn’t even mention the word discrimination, was signed into law just as the island is experiencing a severe uptick in violence against LGBTQ Puerto Ricans.

Five transgender Puerto Ricans have been killed in the U.S. commonwealth since the beginning of 2020. These include Serena Angelique Velázquez and Layla Pelaz, two trans women who were murdered in April in Humacao before their bodies were placed inside a car that was set on fire.

In what seems like a direct attack on the trans community, the new civil code prohibits people from changing the sex they were assigned at birth in their original birth certificates. That, according to the Committee for Equity, is effectively “jeopardizing the rights of trans people.”

Victoria Rodríguez-Roldán, a lawyer and the director of the nonprofit Trans/Gender Non-Conforming Justice Project at the National LGBTQ Task Force, told NBC News that “this type of action by the government, the Legislature, and the rhetoric that comes from the religious right inflicts physical harm” on trans people because it fuels “hate crimes and allows families to reject their trans relatives.”

Puerto Rico’s trans community had finally won some serious legal rights – these are being set back with the new laws.

Since 2018, transgender people in Puerto Rico have been able to correct their birth certificates to reflect their gender identities after winning a 15-year legal battle in federal court. Since then, a trans person can go to the Demographic Registry with an order from a social worker or a medical professional “who puts their credentials on the line” guaranteeing that a person lives with the gender of their preference.

The new civil code seems to roll back those protections when it says “no amendments to the sex a person was born with can be authorized in the original birth certificate,” adding that a court is the only entity with the power to “make an annotation next to the original sex designation” if a person wishes to correct their designation after birth.

The new civil code could also infringe upon the rights of women to maintain control over their health and body.

As a U.S. territory, Puerto Rico is subject to Supreme Court rulings – so abortion rights continue to exist on the island through the Roe v. Wade ruling.

However, the new civil code recognizes an unborn child’s “condition as a person,” adding that it’s “considered born for all the effects that are favorable to him or her.” Granting rights to an unborn child means that the government could intervene and place more obstacles later on. Several experts agree that it opens the door to start limiting abortions in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico is no stranger to such efforts. Over the past year, conservative lawmakers have tried to pass legislation to limit women’s access to abortions. Rep. María Milagros “Tata” Charbonier, president of the commission within Puerto Rico’s House in charge of creating the new civil code, supported bills looking to limit abortions. She also spearheaded an unsuccessful attempt to block same-sex marriage in Puerto Rico after the Supreme Court legalized it in 2015.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

An ICE Nurse Says That Migrant Women Are Having Hysterectomies Performed Without Their Consent While In Detention Centers

Fierce

An ICE Nurse Says That Migrant Women Are Having Hysterectomies Performed Without Their Consent While In Detention Centers

Janis Christie / Getty Images

On Monday, news broke that an ICE detention center in Georgia was performing mass hysterectomies on migrants without their consent. The allegations came from a nurse at the facility along with numerous detained migrants and left many people shocked.

However, the U.S. has a long history of forcing people – especially people of color – into unwanted sterilization, which is a human rights violation and a form of eugenics.

Of course, when it comes to undocumented immigrants, who are regularly referred to as “unwanted” “aliens” by the current president, it’s not so surprising that these practices went unreported for so long. One immigrant in the complaint put it best: “This place is not equipped for humans.”

An ICE nurse and several migrant women allege that a doctor is removing women’s reproductive systems without their consent.

According to the complaint filed Monday by Project South, an Atlanta-based non-profit, a high number of detained immigrant women held at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Ga., are receiving hysterectomies, as well as other “dangerously unhealthy practices” at the prison amid the Coronavirus pandemic.

Dawn Wooten, who worked full-time at the detention center until July, when she was demoted to work as needed, said she and other nurses questioned among themselves why one unnamed gynecologist outside the facility was performing so many hysterectomies on detainees referred to him for additional medical treatment. She alleged about one doctor that “everybody he sees has a hysterectomy,” and that he removed the wrong ovary from one young detainee.

“We’ve questioned among ourselves like, goodness he’s taking everybody’s stuff out…That’s his speciality, he’s the uterus collector,” Ms. Wooten said in the complaint.

One detainee, interviewed by Project South, likened the center to “an experimental concentration camp,” adding: “It was like they’re experimenting with our bodies.”

“If it wasn’t for my faith in God, I think I would have gone insane and just break down and probably gone as far as hurting myself,” the woman said. “There are a lot of people here who end up in medical trying to kill themselves because of how crazy it is.”

The same prison has also come under fire for its medical practices amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Credit: Samuel Corum / Getty Images

Project South said the complaint alleges “jarring accounts from detained immigrants and Wooten regarding the deliberate lack of medical care, unsafe work practices, and absence of adequate protection against Covid-19.”

It summarizes the disclosures Dawn Wooten made to the DHS’s watchdog, and quotes unidentified detainees extensively. Covid-19 complaints included staff refusing to test symptomatic detainees, failing to isolate suspected cases, and not encouraging social-distancing practices.

For their part, ICE says to take the reports with skepticism.

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement representative released this statement to Law & Crime News in response to the complaint: “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not comment on matters presented to the Office of the Inspector General, which provides independent oversight and accountability within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. ICE takes all allegations seriously and defers to the OIG regarding any potential investigation and/or results. That said, in general, anonymous, unproven allegations, made without any fact-checkable specifics, should be treated with the appropriate skepticism they deserve.”

Women in ICE custody have long been subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment.

Credit: Getty Stock

Immigrant detention centers have long been accused of subpar medical care. However, the issue has become even worse amid the pandemic. The report filed by Project South describes how migrants are forced to live in unsanitary and unsafe conditions and even thrown into solitary if they advocate for basic human rights. But even before the outbreak, immigrant women’s bodies have always been the target of medical malpractice and cruelty.

ICE has allegedly denied treatment to detained women with cancer, brain tumors, and breast cysts, and it has a history of policing their bodies. The Trump administration has been accused of tracking migrant girls’ periods to prevent them from getting abortions, introduced a policy to deny pregnant women visitor visas, and literally ripped mothers apart from their babies during family separation. Azadeh Shahshahani, the legal and advocacy director for Project South, said women held at ICDC have said they are not given clean underwear which leads to infections and rashes.

She said detained women, who are mostly Black and brown, are in extremely vulnerable situations in which “they have no control over their bodies.” “It’s a very exploitative situation,” Shahshahani said of the hysterectomies. “There does not seem to be informed consent … they had pretty much no say in what exactly took place.”

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Donald Trump Compared His Son’s ‘Proud Latina’ Girlfriend To Eva Perón After RNC Speech Where She Claimed Puerto Rico Isn’t Part Of The United States

Fierce

Donald Trump Compared His Son’s ‘Proud Latina’ Girlfriend To Eva Perón After RNC Speech Where She Claimed Puerto Rico Isn’t Part Of The United States

Chip Somodevilla / Getty

We might all be proud Latinas but not all Latinas are so proud of Kimberly Guilfoyle.

The girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr. has proven herself to be a controversial figure on both sides of the Democratic and Republican aisles. The American attorney, prosecutor, and television news personality has made waves for her part on the 2020 presidential campaign trail as she stands by her man and his grody dad. She even showed her support during a very loud appearance at the Republican National Convention wherein she made claims of being a “first-generation American.”

Her booming speech at the 2020 Republican National Convention quickly went viral and prompted a comparison to Argentina’s Eva Perón from Donald Trump. As well as backlash from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) who gave her a major fact check.

While critics found Guilfoyle’s speech to be
“over-the-top,” at the very least our so-called “leader of the free world” loved every bit of it.

According to reports, soon after her speech, Donald Trump called Guilfoyle and praised her for her speech. He even compared her to Eva “Evita” Perón.

“That was fantastic…so amazing,” Trump told Guilfoyle on the reportedcall. “So much energy…so much passion.” According to The Daily Beast, the president said “nobody could have done that but you,” and called her “my Kimberly.”

Eva Perón was the former first lady of Argentina from 1948 to 1952. In 1976 Andrew Lloyd Webber made her story into a musical called Evita. Trump has apparently been a huge fan of the musical.

While Trump loved the speech Ocasio-Cortez was quick to slam Guilfoyle for her speech and the ignorance that she delivered during it

AOC took Guilfoyle to task for calling herself a child of immigrants and a “first-generation American.”

“My mother Mercedes was a special education teacher from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. My father, also an immigrant, came to this nation in pursuit of the American dream,” Guilfoyle recalled in her speech.

The claims, like many made by the Trumps, are only partly true. While Guilfoyle’s father is from Ireland, her mother was born in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico which makes her a U.S. citizen.

“The woman the GOP picked as their ‘proud’ Latina … didn’t seem to know that Puerto Rico is already part of the United States,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote in a Twitter.

AOC, also a proud Boricua, noted that Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens by birthright for over more than a century.

The lawmaker slammed Guilfoyle for supporting the Republican portrayal of Latino Americans as foreigners despite the fact that they are U.S. citizens.

“It reflects their belief that Latinos aren’t real citizens,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.

Guilfoyle who is a former Fox News pundit received quite a bit of backlash for her RNC speech last week in which she shouted into a camera. Even memes were born of the event which was not done before a live audience. They want to destroy this country and everything we have fought for and hold dear,” Guilfoyle shouted during her theatrical event. “They want to steal your liberty, your freedom!”

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com