By Sophia Kulow
In early February of this year, Biden urged the Supreme Court to dismiss the challenge against ending the expulsion policy of Title 42. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump Administration used the expulsion policy as a way to override immigration law. This meant that migrants were not allowed to apply for asylum if they had entered the U.S. as undocumented, sending refugees and families away from the Southern border. However, in 2022, the Northern Triangle, a region consisting of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, saw a noticeable rise in migrants seeking refuge, especially women and children migrants.
According to a study by Psychiatry Research, 70% of families that had migrated to the United States to flee gang violence, and 42% of them reported leaving due to domestic violence (MacLean et al, 2020). The second leading cause of death for Honduran women ages 18 to 44 is gender-based violence and almost a third of them have experienced physical violence from a male partner at least once in their lives (Alberto & Chilton, 2019). At the beginning of 2021, femicide occurred every 36 hours in Honduras (Bozmoski, 2021). It’s clear that this environment is unsafe for women, leading to high numbers of women migrants heading north to seek asylum.
Out of the two million migrants that arrived at the United States-Mexico border last year, over a quarter were from the Northern Triangle (Cheatham & Roy, 2022). This is about a 20% increase from prior years and the number was substantial enough to make president Biden propose a $4 billion plan to address the root issues in that region.
Poverty, political insecurity, violence, unsustainable economic livelihoods, and lack of food security are among the top reasons why people are fleeing the Northern Triangle. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of women and children fleeing, largely due to the widespread violence from gangs and gender-based violence (Pew Research Team, 2006).
There is a near guarantee that those who commit gender-based crimes, including femicide and gang violence, are not being held accountable (Bozmoski, 2021). With no type of accountability, the violence continues and tends to occur at a higher rate. The lack of justice for women in this region shows a patriarchal power structure where men hold dominance over women.
Despite all this, strides have been made recently. Biden’s $4 billion plan will address the root causes of gender-based violence in the Northern Triangle, and ending the expulsion policy of Title 42 will allow women to apply for asylum (including from gender-based violence) in the United States if they enter undocumented.
However, it is important to note that gender-based violence must be addressed holistically, from the justice system to changing societal norms and how women are viewed as unequal. In 2019, Global Rights for Women traveled to the Northern Triangle to do training on developing a coordinated community response to gender-based violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. These efforts will help provide essential services and support for survivors of domestic abuse.
In combination with activism and protests that have been occurring in the region, the public’s attention has turned toward this crisis. Raising awareness and gaining recognition for the crisis is a massive step in the right direction, which can be done by listening to survivor’s stories and supporting organizations like Global Rights for Women. With support from activists and people like you, we can change institutionalized norms to allow women to have full autonomy of their security and well being.
Sophia Kulow is a 2023 intern with Global Rights for Women. She is majoring in Global Studies with concentrations in Latin America and Human Rights.
Alberto, Cinthya and Chilton, Mariana, “Transnational Violence Against Asylum-Seeking Women and Children: Honduras and the United States-Mexico Border,” Human Rights Review 20 (Feburary 2019): 215, https://doi.org/10.1007/s12142-019-0547-5
Cheatham, Amelia. “Central America’s Turbulent Northern Triangle.” Council on Foreign Relations, June 23, 2022. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/central-americas-turbulent-northern-triangle.
Huber, Chris. “Central American migration: Facts, FAQs, and How to Help.” World Vision. Last modified May 5, 2022. https://www.worldvision.org/refugees-news-stories/central-american-migration-facts
MacLean, Sarah A., Agyeman, Priscilla O., Walther, Joshua, Singer, Elizabeth K., Baranowski, Kim A., and Katz, Craig L., “Characterization of the mental health of immigrant children separated from their mothers at the U.S.–Mexico border”
Pew Research Team, “Gender and Migration,” The Pew Research Center (July, 2006) https://www.pewresearch.org/hispanic/2006/07/05/ii-migration-and-gender/
Walla, Katherine. “The Northern Triangle: The World’s Epicenter for Gender-Based Violence.” Atlantic Council, March 4, 2021. https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/the-northern-triangle-the-worlds-epicenter-for-gender-based-violence/.