According to the United Nations, a refugee crisis is occurring in Central America and Mexico because of escalating violence. Many of the refugees are women who are trying to protect themselves and their children. A large portion of these refugees end up in the United States, often in the Washington D.C. area.
The report from the United Nations is called “Women on the Run”. It was produced by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Based on the report, women in Central America and Mexico are being targeted by criminal organizations, and state governments are doing very little to protect them.
The executive director for the human rights organization Cristosal Noah Bullock says, “In our experience in the field, it's the family unit that is at risk and in Central America — the primary heads of the family are women. I think the important part of the story to emphasize as well is the way that gender-based violence is a driver of forced displacement."
One immigrant who came from El Salvador named Jose says that the situation is affecting his family in his home country.
“I also live in a situation like that with one my sisters. One of the leaders of the gang wanted her and eventually he got her, so now I'm really scared because when my daughter gets older, she's going to be a target for them,” he says.
Meanwhile, some organizations are supporting these immigrants within the United States. One organization is the Mary House, a group that helps destitute immigrants in Washington D.C. Many of the people working at the Mary House are also victims of violence.
Leader of the Mary House Sharon Murphy says, “Within the past six weeks we've moved in three single moms from El Salvador, a year and a half ago what we were seeing were single moms from Honduras. For most of the women I work with, surviving for the children is a way to lift me up out of my own experience of sexual violence.”
Unless the Central American governments start taking action, it is likely that the women in these countries will continue to be targeted by criminals. For now, people like Murphy are doing everything they can to help those affected by the situation.