Wednesday, April 03, 2019
Breaking Barriers: Women's Immigration Rights
by Wenzhao Qiu, Junior, Solon High School
Following recent events, the topic of immigration has sparked heated debate across the United States and the world at large. Heart-wrenching narratives of family separation and child refugees are now commonplace, yet policymakers continue to move slower than ever. And at the center of this ongoing web of tragedy are the immigrant women, who are disproportionately at risk for sexual and gendered violence; violence that most will inevitably face on their journey to safety.
This year, for Women’s History month, Lisa Splawinski, a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland; Chrissy Stonebreaker-Martinez, a co-coordinator for the InterReligious Task Force on Central America; and Sister Anne Victory, a steering committee member of the Collaborative to End Human Trafficking, joined us at the City Club of Cleveland to discuss the unique role of women and women’s rights in immigration. All have worked extensively in their respective fields, providing us new insight on the issues at hand.
The primary problem, it seems, is the violence and fear forcing these women to migrate in the first place. Many focus the majority of their attention towards how to deal with existing illegal immigrants and refugees, never realizing that there would be no such problems if they never had to leave their homes from the beginning. Developing nations, wrecked by corruption and instability, have little to no ability to protect their own citizens from the violence that runs rampant within their borders. And so those citizens flee.
Then they arrive at the border of some first world nation, hoping for a better life—only to be met by an environment nearly as hostile as the one they just left. Are there criminals among these refugees? Sure. But not as many as one would think, especially among the women and children. In fact, according to the Migration Policy Institute, immigrant women in the United States were 5% more likely to become naturalized citizens than immigrant men.
Despite this, however, policymakers in the United States have yet to make any reforms regarding the situation of these women, remaining largely undecided on what sort of solution to pursue. While discussing this matter, the forum came to a general consensus that the most persuasive tool for influencing change was sharing the stories of these women and appealing to the human empathy of those in power. Although this is a good strategy to convince those on the fence about the issue, it’s important to remember that most policymakers, especially in this country, are either fully in support of or fully against immigrant rights. And for those against, anecdotal evidence likely won’t cut it. Facts and statistics regarding the matter are equally vital when convincing others, and, seeing as most illegal immigrant women are not dangerous criminals, there should be plenty in their favor.