Protect Immigrant Farmworkers from Sexual Violence, Abuse and Harassment

Target: U.S. Congress

Goal: Strengthen laws to better protect female immigrant farm workers from sexual violence and abuse.

The U.S. must do much more to protect female immigrant farmworkers through the Violence Against Women Act. Hundreds of thousands of female immigrant farmworkers nationwide face a high risk of rape, sexual assault and harassment. Other than the U.S. Senate reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), much more needs to be done, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

Female farmworkers, having been interviewed in states such as California, North Carolina, and New York, reported experiencing rape, groping, obscene language, and other abusive behaviors on the part of supervisors and employers, or at least knew someone who had experienced these atrocities. Dysfunctional immigration and labor laws put them at risk, affording them few protections. For example, one woman, after having been raped by her supervisor, was told by the rapist that she should be grateful, and that it was because of him that she even had the job.

Fear of deportation leads to the silencing of many female immigrant farmworkers who face these atrocities everyday, contributing to feelings of helplessness and powerlessness that characterize any victims of sexual and physical abuse. Most of the abusers know just how vulnerable their workers are. The most vulnerable include girls, young women, immigrant and indigenous women (especially those with a limited ability to speak English). Abusers often continue these behaviors over extended periods of time because of these vulnerabilities and feelings of hopelessness that these women feel.

It is a crime of humanity to allow these things to occur. Prolonged sexual violence accompanied with a feeling that no protective agency will step in and help due to immigrant and/or non-english speaking statuses is an unfortunate consequence of tainted policies. The VAWA as well as prosecutors need to do more to protect these women. Our nation must grant these women the protections that most of us take for granted every day.

Republicans in Congress are attempting to strip away VAWA rights for immigrants. Not only is this an atrocity, VAWA rights for immigrants must be advocated for, and protections for immigrant and indigenous workers need to increase. Currently, a ‘battered non-citizen’ must be the spouse or the child of an abusive citizen. Clearly, this does not extend to women who are abused on farms by supervisors and/or employers. This needs to change immediately.


Dear U.S. Congress,

Do not allow Congress to strip away VAWA rights for immigrant and indigenous workers. Any sexual crimes against women that go unpunished is an abomination of humanity. The fact that the renewal of the VAWA was even debated is an atrocity in the first place.

We should not allow the United States, the ‘land of freedom and opportunity’ fall back on patriarchal ideals and increasing violence against women. These are not issues of debate, and they need to stop being debated. We must protect women in order to protect humanity, whether or not they have visas.

Allowing supervisors and employers to go unpunished while they commit crimes against humanity needs to cease as soon as possible. We must protect our women, starting with the VAWA advocating for all women’s rights, and not just those of us that are natural-born citizens whom happen to be fluent in English.


[Your Name Here]

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  • Ana Maria Mainhardt Carpes
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