Recent border control crackdowns, stricter enforcement and targeted ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids near the United States-Mexico border have had significant impact on Mexican women and Mexican-American women. These issues have impacted women of Mexican descent regardless of their citizenship status — and resulted in a lower number of legal permanent residence applications (formerly known as “green card” status) among women.
Additionally, issues at the border affect undocumented migrant workers, victims of abuse and women with additional marginalizations, such as health issues.
Because ICE is diligent about detention and deportation and backed by a xenophobic ideology, undocumented immigrants often face a host of detrimental challenges they are unable to tackle, from needing hospitalization to experiencing domestic violence. The latter impacts women more significantly, with over 232,000 instances of domestic violence against women per year.
In fact, “Research shows that victims of domestic violence are fearful of speaking up or seeking relief from their abusers; they are condemned to endure their abuse for fear of deportation or detention under increased immigration enforcement activities in the United States,” offers Randall Akee. This threat places abused women and children in a double-threat situation — they can turn to neither their abuser nor their new home’s government in America for safety.
The Truth About Immigration, Migrant Women and Their Children
Women who immigrate to the United States do so for a variety of reasons, including financial independence, entrepreneurship and wanting a safer, better life for their families. While ICE has continued to lock up an increasing amount of minors, many mothers wait on answers regarding whether their children may stay. Efforts to overturn current legislation clarifying this are in peril.
DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) affects more than 800,000 immigrants, many of whom are young women hoping to work, receive education and remain in the U.S. into adulthood. For immigrants who were under 31 years of age on June 15, 2012, DACA provides a two-year deferral on deportation, educational and work possibilities and a path to more established residency.
Americans’ general departure from DACA support reflects the threatening nature of current immigration policy in the United States. The current immigration status leads to many unlawful and questionable detainments and deportations, and women often do not know where to go for helpful resources concerning domestic violence.
Deporting and Detaining Legal Status Immigrants
The rhetoric surrounding anti-immigration is popular and founded on the beliefs that immigrants are taking Americans’ jobs, using welfare and other resources and that they do not contribute to society in meaningful ways. The Trump administration recently valued the cost of immigrants at $250 billion annually, but it’s likely that the real cost is only a third of that figure.
However, statistics show otherwise. Many immigrant families are self-motivated. More than 25% of startups in the United States are founded by immigrants, yet application denials have risen by 36%. From the corner store to Silicon Valley, immigrants’ contributions are invaluable when it comes to daily conveniences, fresh food availability and the latest technological advancements.
With 76% of immigrants in the U.S. holding legal immigration status, detainment and unlawful deportation has become a major problem in recent months. Specifically, ICE has been targeting legal permanent residents for past crimes, such as domestic violence.
Transgender Women Face Additional Threats
In the United States and beyond, transgender individuals have a more difficult time gaining and maintaining access to healthcare. This marginalization compounds problems many immigrants often face, such as job or financial discrimination.
Two transgender immigrants died near El Paso, Texas in June after arriving with complex and untreated medical conditions. Johana Medina Leon fled Salvador. After being apprehended by ICE, it was determined that her repatriation to Mexico could possibly lead to her harm. In the interim, Leon must wait for a judge to rule on this decision concerning her safety, living in limbo until the judicial branch of our government took action.
Women Immigrants as Caregivers
Women in immigrant and migrant situations often serve as caregivers for their family members. In particular, they look after children and aging parents, and their role is vital in their families and communities. Without them, every other group or family member is further at risk for deportation and at-risk behavior.
Whether attempting a border crossing for financial reasons, to save their own lives or to flee a more hostile, life-threatening environment, women at the border face additional challenges often not considered by U.S. border forces.
In addition to the struggles all immigrants face, migrant women face multiple marginalizations. They often experience sexism, racism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination. When detained, ICE often separates families, and without mothers, children and teens face additional abuse and risk. The border control situation negatively impacts women when it removes them from their families and the innovative opportunities and contributions they bring with them when they immigrate.
Editorial note: The Geek Initiative publishes anonymous content under “NPC” when the author faces risks such as violence or job loss due to the publication of advocacy material.