The Truth About Trump’s Border Wall And What It Means For Migrant Women

As you’ve probably heard, Donald Trump is planning to construct a massive wall along the Southwest border and extend the fence that already exists by more than 650 miles.

Trump took to Twitter on Friday morning saying that Mexico will reimburse the U.S. for money spent on the undertaking, which has been projected to cost billions of dollars.

The construction of the wall, as well as his administration’s other proposed immigration policies, such as the mass deportation millions of undocumented immigrants and the removal of programs that help and protect them, will immensely amplify the hardship already faced by women who migrate to the border in order to escape the poverty, organized crime, gang violence, and domestic violence in their home countries.

Women make up 51 percent of immigrants in the United States, with 21.2 million immigrant women living in the United States.

Women also comprised 46 percent of the 11.4 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States in the 2008 – 2012 period, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

A majority of the women who cross the Southwest border are fleeing gang violence and organized crime that plague their home countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

It has been reported that a growing number of these women are unaccompanied minors – the U.S. is culpable for much of the instability in these countries due to its past intervention in the region.

Women have fled from Mexico across the border to find job opportunities ever since NAFTA devastated the Mexican economy, crushing the country’s annual per capita growth to an average of just 1.2 percent, resulting in rampant unemployment.

About one-fifth of Mexican children suffer from malnutrition and government statistics report that twenty-five percent of the Mexican population does not have access to basic food – forcing these women to cross the border to provide for their families.

Many women, in general, also show up on the United States’ doorstep seeking refuge from domestic violence, often times bringing their children with them.

The journey to the border is treacherous, especially for women. Health professionals report that as many as six in ten migrant women and girls are raped on the journey.

Women also endure beatings and kidnappings (to be either held for ransom or trafficked) by coyotes, smugglers paid to lead people across the border.

There are higher rates of women being abandoned by these coyotes while crossing than men.

Women who are caught while attempting to cross the border are kept in detention facilities – there has been an increase in the number of mothers and pregnant women detained.

Women encounter widespread abuse in detention centers.

Many have reported they experienced sexual abuse at the hands of staffers and other inmates, were denied medical care, strip-searched, and even frequently shackled.

This takes a severe psychological toll on these women – with cases of suicide being reported at these centers.

Those who make it into the U.S. face another set of problems.

Many of these undocumented immigrant women face exploitation in the workforce. They subsist on extremely low wages, are often denied payment for work, or face being threatened with deportation or blackmailed by their employers.

They are also subjected to sexual harassment and violence because predators view undocumented women as vulnerable due to the fact that they are isolated, often do not know their rights, and lack legal status, making these women too afraid to take action and report the abuse.

Much of the work these migrant women do, such as agricultural labor or domestic work, is unregulated so they are left without much protection or support.

Undocumented immigrant women also live in constant fear that their families will be torn apart if they or their loved ones are detected.

Women whose husbands are deported are left behind, becoming the sole providers for their families while handling the trauma of the ordeal.

If they themselves get deported, they have to worry about their children, who will be placed in foster care if there are no other family members who can take them in.

Trump’s plans to crack down on immigration, as well as his xenophobic, anti-immigrant rhetoric, is disastrous to undocumented immigrant women and their families.

The administration’s proposals will ultimately shatter communities and detrimentally affect millions of people.

We must join in solidarity with undocumented immigrants to resist these policies. Protect our communities!

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Joshel Melgarejo

Joshel Melgarejo, PGP: she/her, is a journalist, activist, and photographer with a BA in Political Science from Hunter College. Her interests include petting bodega cats, gorging on ethnic street food, collecting bottle caps (for the post-nuclear apocalypse), attending rad punk shows, and smashing imperialism.