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This article was originally published on October 11, 2022.

Washington, D.C — A new report by Oxfam America and the Tahirih Justice Center documents how common it is for migrants seeking asylum to experience gender-based violence in Mexico while waiting to access the asylum process in the U.S.

In Surviving Deterrence: How U.S. Asylum Deterrence Policies Normalize Gender-Based Violence, Oxfam America and Tahirih explain how U.S. asylum deterrence policies, such as border closures and expulsions, exacerbate conditions that cause gender-based violence to proliferate at the southern border. The report further asserts that survivors who do manage to apply for asylum face an inequitable and re-traumatizing process on a systemic level.

“The risk of violence at the border for women, girls, and LGBTQI+ people is so high that they have reportedly come to expect it as a condition of seeking asylum in the U.S.,” said Irena Sullivan, Senior Immigration Policy Counsel at the Tahirih Justice Center. “By abandoning its punitive, deterrence-based approach to asylum, the U.S. can uphold its legal and moral obligations to protect rather than endanger those who are particularly vulnerable to begin with.”

“Racialized policies of migration deterrence, which have become the cornerstone of US asylum and immigration policies, actively increase the risk of gender-based violence for women, girls, and LGBTQI+ individuals seeking asylum at the US southern border,” said Sara Duvisac, Research and Policy Advisor and ACLS/Mellon Public Fellow at Oxfam America. “The US asylum system, rather than protecting the most vulnerable, often systematically harms those seeking protection, in gendered and racialized ways.”

The report lists a set of recommendations for how the U.S. government can replace its punitive, deterrence-based approach to asylum with one that centers those in need of protection. For example, in place of deterrence policies, the report urges the U.S. to invest in ‘Welcome Centers,’ where asylum seekers can access legal and humanitarian resources. It must also fully implement robust trauma-informed policies and practices across all U.S. agencies that interface with those seeking asylum. Other recommendations include eradicating racial bias across all U.S. immigration agencies, explicitly recognizing gender as an independent ground of asylum, supporting alternative pathways for processing refugees, and aligning U.S. immigration and asylum policies with U.S. foreign policy goals that seek to promote women’s economic and social empowerment.

Authors of the report are available for further comments:
Irena Sullivan, Senior Immigration Policy Counsel, Tahirih Justice Center.
Sara Duvisac, Research and Policy Advisor, American Council of Learned Societies/Mellon Public Fellow, Oxfam America.

Service providers that were part of the report are available for further comments:
Ginger Cline, Staff Attorney at Al Otro Lado
Dr. Luis Eduardo Zavala, Executive director at Casa Monarca
Andrea Rodriguez, Staff Attorney at Casa Monarca

To schedule press interviews, please contact [email protected] or [email protected]

There will also be a webinar in the coming days with the authors of the report, as well as service providers that were part of the research.

Puede leer el informe en español aqui.