FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | Jan. 17, 2018
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice released a deeply flawed report yesterday that, among other problems, incorrectly cites data from the Tahirih Justice Center, a nationally-recognized leader in the movement to end violence against women and girls in the United States. The report, which was required under the March 6, 2017 Executive Order, was promoted yesterday in a White House statement entitled “Our Current Immigration System Jeopardizes American Security,” which portrays immigrants as more likely than others to commit gender-based crimes without any supporting evidence.
The Tahirih Justice Center rejects the Administration’s attempt to frame gender-based violence as disproportionately perpetrated by immigrants in the United States. The DHS/DOJ report provides no data – and in fact states that it has no data – indicating that crimes such as domestic violence or so-called “honor” killings were committed more often by immigrants than by U.S.-born perpetrators.
“Gender-based violence is a widespread epidemic in America that impacts thousands of people across the country each year. Attributing this long-standing and pervasive problem to immigrants is not only inaccurate – it also fails to recognize that immigrants are uniquely vulnerable to violence and exploitation by U.S.- and foreign-born perpetrators,” said Archi Pyati, Tahirih’s Chief of Policy.
“Rather than scapegoating immigrants, this Administration should focus on protecting all survivors of gender-based violence in this country, including immigrants,” Pyati said.
The report states that “approximately 1,500 forced marriages occur every year in the United States,” inaccurately citing a 2014 study commissioned by the Bureau of Justice Statistics that uses Tahirih data from 2011.
In 2011, Tahirih surveyed legal and social services providers on their experiences with forced marriage in the United States. Survey respondents revealed that they had encountered up to 3,000 cases of forced marriage among the communities they served between 2009 and 2011. The Bureau of Justice Statistics cut this figure in half to arrive at 1,500 cases of forced marriages in one year. This is a misuse and misread of Tahirih data. Tahirih’s report of survey data clearly reflects that:
- Service providers encountered as many as 3,000 cases of forced marriage during the two year window, not that the marriages occurred during that time;
- The cases of forced marriage could have occurred outside the United States; and
- Both the victims and perpetrators were diverse in religious, ethnic, and national background, including U.S. citizens and immigrants.
Tahirih rejects the Administration’s attempt to justify its anti-immigrant policies by citing gender-based violence among immigrants. If the Administration is concerned about ending gender-based violence among immigrants, it should end its policies of detaining immigrant victims of crime while they seek protection from law enforcement and turning away refugee women and children fleeing gender-based violence as they seek protection at our borders and through our courts, and seek to increase protections for immigrant victims.
Archi Pyati, Chief of Policy, and Jeanne Smoot, Senior Counsel for Policy and Strategy, are available for comment on this topic. Please contact [email protected] to arrange an interview.
About the Tahirih Justice Center
The Tahirih Justice Center is a national, non-profit organization that aims to end violence against immigrant women and girls through free, holistic direct services, policy advocacy, and training and education. Tahirih serves courageous survivors of abuses such as domestic violence, sexual assault, female genital mutilation/cutting, human trafficking, “honor” violence, and forced marriage.
Through our specialized Forced Marriage Initiative (FMI), Tahirih is leading efforts at the federal and state levels to tackle forced marriage as a domestic U.S. problem impacting U.S. citizen and immigrant women and girls. Since launching the FMI in 2011, Tahirih has worked on over 500 forced marriage cases involving U.S. women and girls. For more information, visit tahirih.org or preventforcedmarriage.org.