I don’t think I’ve ever heard wiser words come out of Senator John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) mouth. On Fox News Sunday McCain advocated for immigration reform with less focus on abortion for the GOP. The senator, and 2008 Republican presidential nominee, is echoing sentiments of not only millennials, those upset with the establishment, but also of immigrants themselves. “We have to have a bigger tent. No doubt about it. And obviously we have to do immigration reform,” McCain said on the Sunday show. “There is no doubt whatsoever that the demographics are not on our side.” he added, “as far as young women are concerned, I don’t think anybody like me – I can state my position on abortion, but other than that, leave the issue alone when we are in the kind of economic situation, and frankly, national security situation that we’re in,” McCain concluded. He, notoriously, covered the lack of enthusiasm for the GOP and it’s candidates during the election that was echoed by: women, minorities, and young voters.
When issues of immigration reform come up, it’s always important to not only look at economic sustainability for these workers and their access to the market. But to also look at how they are coping socially and physically. Nothing highlights this as much as the rising domestic abuse and trafficking statistics among illegal immigrants. Violence towards women and children often increases in the transition to the United States, and so it’s important to take in account the isolation and improper access to resources that could help women and children that are being abused. Those feelings of loneliness and isolation are a huge hurdle to overcome in an abusive relationship. Now imagine being in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language, don’t know the customs and fear being deported, imagine the loneliness and fear. One woman described it as such, “for eight years, the 36-year-old woman stayed with her husband, the father of her two children. Cultural, religious, economic and language barriers kept her from seeking help or leaving. But her biggest fear was that because she was an undocumented immigrant, her husband, a naturalized U.S. citizen, would have her deported. 'He would threaten me,' the woman recalled. If you leave me, I'm going to call la migra (immigration officials) so they can kick you and all of your relatives out of the country. You'll never see the children again." This story shows the increase in abuse against immigrant women because by keeping a veil of ignorance of this issue it grants the abusers the power to silence their victims.
These women are the silent victims of a broken system in every respect, from the moment many cross the border (and are exposed to rape, sexual abuse and violence) to economic and social disparities they experience once they reach the supposed "promised land."
In crossing the border, many unaccompanied children brave almost impossible journeys to reunite with families or seek safe haven from abuse and persecution. In this process, many children have been trafficked and have suffered death from cartel violence, gangs, and dehydration. Violence along the border that is connected to the ongoing drug war makes this journey even more dangerous as drug cartels take over the human smuggling business.
Even many government officials, who are employed to protect immigrants, are often the perpetrators of violence. Many U.S. officials that work with refugee, asylum, and consular affairs are involved in committing women's rights violations. Immigrant women are targeted because they don't speak English, lack legal status, don't understand their basic rights, and are usually isolated from support systems and family units.
Immigration reform is the best way to address these issues and enable women and children to access tools for justice and equality. Right now, immigrant women and children are living on the margins of society, and are more likely to live in poverty and lack education. By granting them a legal status, they can come out of the shadows and fully embrace the American dream they have sacrificed so much for.
If we continue as a society to be terrified of people who look and sound different than us we ignore and continue the deprivation of basic human rights rights. We will not only have an increase in physical and sexual violence, but we encourage an environment where children grow up thinking that this is violence is “normal”. A country that ignores the abuse of it’s immigrants, encourages it by silence will only further begin to erode the right of it’s citizens. The rule of law is for all individuals whether they are male, female, child, gay, lesbian, etc.
“While domestic violence affects all segments of society, experts say immigrant women, especially those who are undocumented, are among the most vulnerable because their immigration status often is tied to their abusers, which discourages them from seeking help.”
An excellent article covering the Latinos voice on immigration is found here.