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The Trump Administration’s recently-released framework on immigration reform, which was discussed during last night’s State of the Union, seeks to restrict access to asylum and other immigration protections for women and children fleeing violence. But a report released by the Tahirih Justice Center today reveals that immigrant women and girls in the United States need far more protection, not less.

“Women and girls fleeing brutal violence are not simply fitting into ‘legal loopholes’ as described by the White House” said Archi Pyati, Tahirih’s Chief of Policy. “Congress has passed, with bipartisan support, laws that deliberately create pathways for those who have experienced gender-based violence and other crime in order to provide critical protection and incentivize cooperation with law enforcement. In the last year, we have seen higher rates of arrest and detention, more aggressive attempts to deport immigrant survivors, and summary rejection of potentially qualifying refugees at the border. This has broken up families, left children without their mothers, and cost taxpayers millions of dollars.”

“This report shows us what advocates are seeing on the ground: that executive actions are undermining critical legal measures for survivors of violence, and that more protections are needed,” Pyati said.

The report showcases results of a nationwide survey on the systemic challenges immigrant women and girls face in the United States and the policy solutions needed to address them. The results reveal the ways in which inequities and inefficiencies in our immigration system block women and girls from obtaining lawful immigration status, perpetuate conditions of poverty, and increase their vulnerability to exploitation and abuse.

Tahirih issued the survey in October 2017 to a wide audience of immigration advocates, legal and social service providers, and immigrant women in other sectors. Over 150 individuals, representing 108 entities in 23 states, provided input in English and Spanish through the online survey and telephone interviews conducted by Tahirih. While the survey sought to document the experience of immigrant women and girls generally, the results overwhelmingly reflect challenges faced by immigrant women who have endured domestic abuse or other gender-based violence.

The most urgent challenge facing immigrant women and girls in the United States, according to survey participants, is the exceedingly narrow pathway to legal immigration status even for those who desperately need protection. Immigrant women facing deportation suffer intense fear for their safety, anticipating retaliation from persecutors in the form of kidnapping, rape, and torture upon return home. Immigration detention, where severe abuses are pervasive, was identified as the second most urgent challenge. Lack of safe and affordable housing, language barriers, and fear of police were cited by participants as both urgent and widespread challenges facing immigrant women and girls.

Participants in Tahirih’s survey overwhelmingly agreed that federal legislative change, as opposed to other approaches, is the most effective way to achieve fair and adequate protection for all immigrant women and girls. As this survey shows, change has to be made by Congress to address the severe protection gaps for immigrant women and girls in this country.

This survey was conducted through the generous support of the Ford Foundation, through a contract from NEO Philanthropy. Tahirih’s report on the survey results is available at


Archi Pyati, Chief of Policy, and Irena Sullivan, Public Policy Advocate, are available for comment on this topic. Please contact [email protected] to arrange an interview.