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Women and girls from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico turn to Tahirih in record numbers

The United States is experiencing a refugee crisis at our southern border, as mothers and children seek safety from war-level violence in Central America. Reflecting this reality, Tahirih Justice Center, which provides free legal advocacy on behalf of immigrant women and girls fleeing violence, experienced a 135% increase in clients seeking asylum from Central American countries over the last year.

Because of rampant gang violence and attitudes towards women, Central America has become one of the most dangerous regions in the world to be a woman. In 2014, the number of women crossing the U.S border was nearly three times higher than in 2013, and tens of thousands of families from the region have sought asylum in the United States.

Children without parents, too, fled regional violence in record numbers — nearly 124,000 unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico sought safety in the United States from FY 2014 to FY 2016. Many women and children who manage to escape north are being warehoused in jail-like facilities in the United States.

The crisis at the border has resulted in unprecedented demand for Tahirih’s free legal and social services for survivors of gender-based violence. In 2015:

  • Tahirih provided asylum legal assistance to 217 women and girls from Central America in 2015 — a 135% increase from 2014.
  • El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico were the top four countries of origin for Tahirih clients (for the second consecutive year) and made up about 62% of Tahirih’s overall caseload.
  • Overall, Tahirih experienced a 54% increase in asylum cases from all over the world (providing asylum legal assistance to 400+ women and girls).
  • Asylum cases across the organization’s three locations have increased, but Houston experienced the most marked increase due to its proximity to the border and its dedicated response to the crisis, the Children’s Border Project. Among the asylum caseload in Houston, 80% of clients were asylum seekers from Latin America, and two new staff members were hired in 2014 to respond to the acute need for services related to the crisis.

“On a weekly basis, women and girls who have barely survived violence in the region — often gang-related sexual assault, rape, and human trafficking — reach out to Tahirih for help. We can’t keep up with the demand and the lack of attention to their plight is heartbreaking,” said Tahirih Founder and Executive Director Layli Miller-Muro.

Client regions of origin in 2015.

Client Regions of Origin in 2015

Last year, Tahirih Justice Center provided free legal services to a record-breaking 972 immigrant women and girls from over 90 countries through its three locations in Baltimore, Greater DC, and Houston. Yet, it still must turn away 3 out of every 4 women and girls who reach out for help due to unprecedented demand and lack of resources.

To learn more about the women and girls whom Tahirih served, and your role in their protection, please read Tahirih’s 2015 Impact Report, now available online. If you can help respond to the unprecedented need, please make a donation today.

MEDIA: Please contact Tahirih Communications Manager Marlena Hartz at marlenah@tahirih.org or 571-282-6193 if you are interested in covering this issue.

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