Things That Matter

New Study Shows Central American Women Escaping Violence Experience More Trauma After Seeking Asylum

A recently released report shows the reality of why many woman from Central American countries are fleeing. The data outlines a rising number of women are trying to escape sexual and domestic violence in their home countries. Conducted with researchers from St. Edwards University and Casa de Esperanza, a federal resource center for Latinas and Latin@ communities to end domestic violence, the report provides evidence on why women are facing these circumstances and what can be done to help.

In the last decade there has been an increase in the arrival of Latina immigrant women and their children from primarily Central American Countries.

The report shows that many women’s motivations to migrate and experiences during migration are often tied to violence, whether it be sexual or domestic. The majority have come from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras which are among the most dangerous places in the world for females.

They are also home to some of the world’s highest murder rates, that includes for women and young girls. Making matters worse is there are few consequences for perpetrators in those areas.

Dr. Laurie Cook, an assistant professor and social researcher at St. Edward’s University, interviewed hundreds of women after they were detained by immigration authorities for the report. Cook says these women are fleeing for many reasons but a majority is due to increasing violence in their home countries.

“Women are seeing more violence, whether it be domestic or sexual. We’ve heard from women that gang violence in the streets might be used against them by their own partners,” Cook said. “These issues go back a long time and for many, migration is only option they may have to survive. This violence is being used to control people.”

Many of these women and children know the risks that come with migrating. But they are left with little alternatives back home.

Many women know the dangers that lie ahead when attempting to migrate from Central America to the United States. There are countless stories and reports of sexual violence in caravan groups, yet that risk is worth escaping their lives back home.

“We hear from women they know the danger they face and its a known risk,” Cook said. “Migrating is the only choice, they know the risk of sexual violence, trafficking, those are possible risks so they still do it. there is no alternative.”

Even when some do reach the U.S. and seek asylum, the violence doesn’t end there.

In the last two years, the U.S .government apprehended more than 150,000 immigrant family units, primarily Central American women traveling with their children, according to the report. This huge influx has spiked the number of people being detained and kept in detention centers along the Southern U.S. border.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is currently detaining more than 50,000 immigrants at any given time. While the majority of detainees are men, the percentage of asylum-seeking women and girls, is rising.

According to Cook, the conditions and traumatic effects of detaining immigrants can damage mental health and cause post-traumatic stress. These effects can last years and even cause a lifetime of mental issues.

“Short or long term detention leaves a mark on their lives. The longer in detention means longer impact,” Cook said. “These places are clearly not a shelter, they’re more of a jail for families.”

The conditions in detention centers are alarming as many women have reported being sexually abused while being held. Cook notes there is relatively little accountability when it comes to these cases being reported which speaks to the overall culture and system within detention centers.

“Women movement is very restrictive and we hear reports of poor quality food and lack of services to legal help which leads to inconsistencies with what they’re being told,” Cook said. “There is a constant level of fear they face that includes cases of physical abuse, sexual abuse that are detrimental to their well being.”

What’s being done to help improve these conditions?

Cook says that there a better alternatives for women and children instead of being held in these detention centers. She recommends community based organizations like shelters that can better serve women and children. These centers would cost less and be more humane for women and children.

“The evidence is there and it shows that these practices are harmful to children and families. Community based centers are better alternatives and they insure that asylum seekers have access to information about their rights and immigration process,” Cook said. ‘ The fact is they’re just looking for a better life and these detention centers are leaving a long-lasting impact that will do more harm.”

Even when women do leave detention centers, being able to survive on their own is increasingly difficult. Factors like finding a job, a place to live and paying back debt, all lead to continued stress and trauma on their lives.

“Seeking asylum for persecution is a national human right,” Cook says. “And we truly lose sight of that.”

READ: The Trump Administration Will Soon Start DNA Testing Families At The Border

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Costa Rica Just Became The First Central American Country To Make Same-Sex Marriage Legal

Entertainment

Costa Rica Just Became The First Central American Country To Make Same-Sex Marriage Legal

@paniaguaenri / Twitter

The country of Costa Rica just got a whole hell of a lot more bright and colorful.

On Tuesday, the Central American country became the first to legally recognize same-sex marriage. In a post to his Twitter account, Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada wrote in celebration of the day saying, “Today we celebrate liberty, equality, and our democratic institutions. May empathy and love be the compass that guide us forward and allow us to move forward and build a country that has room for everyone.”

The decision to ensure marriage equality came at the hands of an August 2018 ruling by the country’s Constitutional Court.

The decision ruled that laws preventing same-sex marriage were incongruent with the country’s constitution and therefore unconstitutional. After officially recognizing same-sex marriages, Costa Rican couples celebrated by holding weddings overnight.

“Costa Rica is celebrating today: marriage equality has become a reality in the country – the first one in Central America!” the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA World) wrote in a Twitter post. “We rejoice with you: congratulations to all those who worked so hard to make it happen!”

The Human Rights Campaign also celebrated the ruling while highlighting the need to ensure marriage equality around the world.

“Today, Costa Rica has made history, bringing marriage equality to Central America for the first time,” HRC President Alphonso David about the new lin in a statement according to CNN. “Costa Rica’s LGBTQ community has worked tirelessly for years to make today a reality. This victory is theirs, and it inspires the entire global LGBTQ community to continue fighting to move equality forward.”

VP Joe Biden Just Got A Major Endorsement From A Leading Latina Voice But Not Everyone Is Thrilled By It

Things That Matter

VP Joe Biden Just Got A Major Endorsement From A Leading Latina Voice But Not Everyone Is Thrilled By It

@DoloresHuerta / Twitter

One quick Google search of ‘Joe Biden’ and ‘Latino’ shows that the former VP – who is running for president this year – has a serious issue with the Latino vote. There is story after story about his lack of support among the Latinx community and suggestions on what he needs to do if he wants the community’s vote – which he’ll need if he wants to win in November.

Recently, however, the tide may be shifting as several prominent Latino advocacy organizations have lined up to support Biden in his campaign for the presidency. This week another prominent Latina voice has added her name to the growing list of advocates showing up to support Biden in 2020.

Labor and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta endorsed Joe Biden for president, giving him the backing of one of the nation’s most prominent Latina leaders.

Dolores Huerta, the labor and civil rights leader who co-founded what eventually became the United Farm Workers union, endorsed Joe Biden for president on Friday.

Huerta, who is based in Bakersfield and is one of the nation’s most prominent Latino activists, offered her support on International Workers Day and as Biden’s campaign seeks to improve support among Latino voters. She said on Friday that Biden has been a “staunch advocate for labor” and has prioritized Latinos.

In a statement, the activist added, “At a time when the current White House has used fear mongering and racist rhetoric towards Latinos, Joe has made it clear that he will fight to protect and advance our community.”

Huerta’s new endorsement is a change from recent quotes about the former VP and illustrates just how important it is to defeat Trump in November.

In her endorsement, Huerta said she promised to do everything “humanly possible” to get Joe Biden elected come November, changing what had been her record during the campaign up to this point.

In fact, just a few months ago, Huerta had endorsed Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) for president and had criticized Biden for his lack of concrete answers about the needs of Latinos across the country. She even accused him of “talking just like the Republicans.”

With her endorsement of Biden, Huerta is making one thing very clear: We have to get rid of President Donald Trump, whatever it takes.

However, Biden still has a serious issue with Latino voters – will this endorsement really matter?

Just a couple of months ago Biden’s campaign was on life support. He was barely polling at all in several key states. That all changed when he won the South Carolina primary with the help of the state’s large African-American population.

Despite his subsequent wins across the country, Biden continued to trail Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), his main rival for the nomination, among Latinos for much of the primary. Biden’s campaign attributed the gap to a lack of financial resources that made it difficult to reach voters, but the former vice president also faced protests over the Obama administration’s deportation of nearly 3 million immigrants who were in the country illegally.

At a July 31 Democratic debate, Biden also found himself at odds with rival candidates who said crossing the border without permission should be a civil violation, not a criminal act. “If you cross the border illegally, you should be able to be sent back. It’s a crime,” Biden said.

But Latino support for the former VP seems to be increasing as the November election fast approaches.

In the weeks since Sanders suspended his campaign, Latino groups — including the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ BOLD PAC and Voto Latino, a voter registration group founded in 2004 — have started to coalesce around Biden.

María Teresa Kumar, Voto Latino’s president and chief executive, told the LA Times that the group decided to back Biden with its first-ever endorsement after he sent a 22-page document answering questions on his positions on student debt, the environment, immigration, criminal justice reform and the modernization of electoral systems. 

The group is now talking to his campaign about how to address the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the Latino community. “We want him to think boldly, because it’s the time for that leadership to help get our country out of where we are,” Kumar said.