Reports of abuse towards migrant women reveal unjust use of power


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A review of police reports from Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California showed more than 100 documented reports of sexual assault of migrant women.

Imagine living in a place where you live in fear of your life every single second of every single day. You feel hopeless. You have a child that you want to give the best life to, and you know you can’t do that under your current circumstances.

So, you decide to leave.

You’ve hired someone to help smuggle you to the United States, where you know you’ll have access to better resources, where you can make some money and not have to worry about constant violence.

You think this person you’ve hired will help you. You trust that they will.

So, you go on the long and brutal journey to the United States. You walk the desert, your blistering feet aching. You wonder if you’ll be able to make it — you’re still so far away at this point — but you keep going. You think of your family and the life that awaits you, and you keep going.

By some miracle, you finally make it on U.S. soil. You can hardly believe it.

But then, it happens.

The coyote takes you to a house where you’ll stay until you can afford a place of your own. The things they make you do there are horrifying. You can’t sleep or eat. And you’re afraid to report the abuse because they will send you back to your home country. You’re trapped.

A recent article in The New York Times tells the stories of Lucy, Melvin, J.E., V.E.M.L. and Cindy, five migrant women who were sexually abused in their efforts to cross the border. The abusers were coyotes, people who are hired to smuggle migrants across the border, and Border Patrol agents themselves.

Not only are these abuses horrifying, but they’re absolutely unacceptable.

A human being is a human being, no matter where they come from or what language they speak. Women crossing the border are looking for a better life, but instead they are demeaned and brutally taken advantage of.

Similar to the prison guard and prisoner dynamic, those who abuse migrant women do so because their position of power enables them to.

An article by the ACLU cites a legal trial in which an asylum-seeker was abused by an employee in a detention center. ICE then claimed that they should not be held responsible for these abuses because they could be consensual.

Migrants put their trust in coyotes to guide them on their journey to the United States, and this is undermined when they abuse the very people they’re supposed to be helping.

Similarly, Border Patrol agents are held to even higher standards as members of law enforcement. It’s chilling to think that they would use their authority to hurt women.

Migrant women who are victims of sexual violence may not report it out of fear or intimidation by their abusers, among other reasons.

No one deserves the physical and psychological trauma caused by sexual abuse, and we need to do better to protect migrant people from these abuses.