LOS ANGELES, California — In 2018, the Migration Policy Institute reported that more than 38,000 unaccompanied children and 104,000 families from the Central American Northern Triangle arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border. This Northern Triangle consists of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. In 2019, the population of immigrants from these countries nearly tripled. Consequently, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) apprehended 363,000 migrant families within the first nine months of the fiscal year. Since many of these immigrants are women, these numbers could decrease if governments focused on protecting women and children.
Specifically, many women and children from the Northern Triangle choose to immigrate to the U.S. after experiencing violence. To strengthen protection for women and children, U.S. Representatives Norma Torres (D-CA) and Ann Wagner (R-MO) introduced a bill that aims to protect women and children from domestic violence, sexual assault and female homicides.
Crime in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala
According to a report published by the United Nations Refugee Agency, 85% of women in Northern Triangle countries report immigrating due to violence. This violence was often experienced in neighborhoods under the control of criminally armed gangs and cartels. Specifically, 65% of women experienced direct attacks or threats from members of gangs and cartels. This caused them to leave their homes.
The report also described instances of women barricading themselves inside their homes to protect themselves from gunfire or direct threats. Additionally, 62% of women in these countries have seen dead bodies in their neighborhoods. Further, the Northern Triangle Countries have among the highest homicide and femicide rates in the world. The Council on Foreign Relations reported that decades of civil war and destabilization following the Cold War contributed to this rise of violence.
More than two-thirds of women who attempted to seek asylum within Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala described insufficient to no protection from police or other authorities. Nearly 42% of women who immigrated from the countries did not report violence to the authorities, as they believed this would ultimately not help their situation.
Impact on Immigration
The Council on Foreign Relations reported that the majority of these migrants seek asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. In a U.N. Refugee Agency report, women described further violence experienced while immigrating to the U.S. Additionally, many women described taking contraceptives prior to making the journey for fear of becoming pregnant from rape. More still mentioned paying high fees to smugglers. Women surveyed also experienced extortion, sexual abuse and coyote attacks throughout their journeys.
Protecting Women and Children
The bill presented by Representatives Torres and Wagner called the Central American Women and Children Protection Act of 2019, will mitigate the issues that cause women and children to immigrate. If women do not experience violence in their home countries, they will not have to immigrate. Thus, they will not experience the violence that comes with the immigration journey.
This legislation authorizes the U.S. Department of State to enter into bilateral agreements with governments of Northern Triangle Central American countries. These agreements are known as Women and Children Protection Compacts.
These protection compacts enacted by the Central American Women and Children Protection Act of 2019 identify areas of violence and evaluate access to protection and justice. The agreements also identify measurable methods of protecting women and children, measure progress in reducing violence and ensure funds are used for protecting women and children.
In introducing a bill to protect women and children in the Northern Triangle, Representatives Torres and Wagner presented further methods of protection for women and children. This bill allows the U.S. and Northern Triangle Central American countries to work together to reduce violence against women and children.
– Amanda Frese