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Gendered Dimensions of Hispanic and Latinx Migration in the US

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The recent spike in asylum-seekers at the US-Mexico border and the growing flow of Hispanic and Latinx migrants arriving in the United States in 2023 –particularly in states like California, Texas, and Florida– have made migration a major topic of conversation in the US.

Also, according to a recent study published by the Pew Research Center, women represent a growing share of recent Hispanic immigrants to the US; they are a majority in some origin groups, including Peruvian (55.8%) and Colombian (55.7%).

When arriving in a new country, migrants face several challenges, including employment, housing, medical care, cultural differences, and learning a new language.

At the same time, “many women migrate in pursuit of work or educational opportunities and the possibility of a better life for themselves and their families,” according to a study published by UN Women. Yet, “despite the promise of better economic prospects, the continued lack of safe and regular migration pathways and gendered-responsive migration policies have significant long and short-term consequences.” This is especially the case for women working in the informal economy. 

Migrant women have also had trouble accessing social protection, which includes access to healthcare and disability insurance, sick leave, and parental leave, among others. According to UN Women, only 22% of working migrants are covered by social protection in their destination countries. 

Gendered and sexual-based violence is also a huge issue that affects women and girl migrants across the world, particularly the ones arriving in the US. An estimated 60 to 80% of migrant women and girls traveling from Mexico to the United States are raped at some stage of their journey, according to the same study.

“Migrant women, particularly those with irregular migration status, face a heightened risk of sexual and gendered-based violence at the hands of smugglers, traffickers, border officials, and other state actors.”

Lastly, there is a lack of access to verified and fact-checked information, particularly gender-responsive information about safe and regular migration pathways, according to the UN Women study. Based on a survey of over 1,000 migrant women in 23 countries, 53% were not aware of migration risks, such as sexual abuse, extortion, trafficking, and accidents during their journeys.

The multifaceted challenges faced by Hispanic and Latinx migrants, particularly women, underscore the critical need for an intersectional analysis of migration. The growing representation of women among recent Hispanic immigrants, as revealed by the Pew Research Center, emphasizes the gendered dimensions of migration.

Women, migrating in pursuit of economic opportunities and a better life, encounter numerous hurdles in their journey. The lack of safe and regular migration pathways, coupled with gender-responsive migration policies, has profound short and long-term consequences. By recognizing the interconnected nature of gender, migration status, and other social factors, policymakers, advocates, and communities can work collaboratively to address the complex issues faced by this population and craft effective and equitable solutions.

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