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Jason Dzubow on Political Asylum

Journey to the U.S. Can Be Especially Dangerous for Women

Rating: 3 votes, 5.00 average.

Asylum is one of the few mechanisms for people who enter the U.S. illegally to obtain legal status in our country, and many asylum seekers risk the difficult journey from their home countries, through South America, Central America, and Mexico, and into the United States.  The trip is dangerous for everyone, but women face particular hardships. 


A recent report from the Immigration Policy Center by Kavitha Sreeharsha notes that "70% of women who cross without spouses or other [family members] are sexually assaulted during the border crossing."  "Advocates report that women are encouraged to take birth control pills before traveling across the border in anticipation of the sexual assault."  Probably as a result of this danger, the ratio of female to male asylum seekers who enter the country at the Southern border is very low (according to DHS, only about 17% of people apprehended at the U.S./Mexican border are female).


In my own practice, I regularly see asylum seekers who have traveled from Africa and crossed into the United States illegally.  Some have been apprehended at the border and later released; others have avoided capture.  It's very rare for me to see female asylum seekers who entered the United States in this manner.  In fact, I can only think of one woman client who crossed the border without inspection.  She traveled from Africa to South America and then to Central America and Mexico.  She met different smugglers in each country.  Sometimes, she traveled with other Africans, but other times, she was alone.  She made the journey with no particular problems and then she crossed the Rio Grande River with a few dozen migrants.  Once she was in the United States, the smugglers separated her and another woman (and that woman's small children), and locked them in a house.  The smugglers raped my client.  After some days, she escaped and contacted the police.  The smugglers were never captured.


My client's story illustrates the danger faced by women traveling alone along the smuggling route.  Of course, we hope that the countries where these smugglers operate will crack down on the practice, but such reforms seem a long way off in most places.  The story also illustrates the risks people will take to escape their problems and seek a better life in our country.  To paraphrase the old idiom: immigration is the sincerest form of flattery.

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Comments

  1. Honza Prchal's Avatar
    If 70% are sexually assaulted, I strongly suspect that the definition of Sexual assault used encompasses far more than rape and attempted rape.

    Overblown statistics actually reduce credibility, and thus reduce the justifiable alarm and outrage that such numbers should produce. I'd really like to see the methodology on that 70% claim, even leaving aside my expectation that catcalls and being made to feel very uncomfortable, not necessarily things we should smile upon but hardly the layman's conception of "sexual assault", are being counted in that figure.

    I am uncomfortably reminded by the 70% claim of the former claims of Sunni Arabs in Iraq that they comprised 34% of the population ... or even 34.5% ... or of Turkish claims, often precise to the percentage point that Turkomens in Iraq comprised about a fifth of the population of that country. The figures were too high and the claims stretched imagination in a nation that had gone decades without an accurate census, undergone several massive wars and internal conflicts, etc.
  2. Jason Dzubow's Avatar
    That is a good point. There is probably no good way to know how many people are assaulted on the journey to the United States. Even if that number is wrong, I don't doubt that many woman face serious problems on the smuggling route.
  3. Retro Jordan's Avatar
    *Instant is good, no seizing the moment is sad.
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