Across Latin America, a murder epidemic is underway. Most years, 100,000 people are killed, largely young men on the periphery of societies where gangs and cartels sometimes take the place of the state, reports the New York Times. The turmoil has forced millions to flee the region and seek refuge in the U.S., where they confront a system strained by record demand and a bitter fight over whether to accept them. Violence against women is a powerful and often overlooked factor in the migration crisis. Latin America and the Caribbean are home to 14 of the 25 deadliest nations in the world for women, says the Small Arms Survey. Central America, where most of those seeking U.S. asylum are fleeing, is at the heart of the crisis.
In Guatemala, the homicide rate for women is more than three times the global average. In El Salvador, it is nearly six times. In Honduras, it is one of the highest in the world, almost 12 times the global average. In the most violent pockets of Central America, the United Nations says, the danger is like living in a war zone. “Despite the risk associated with migration, it is still lower than the risk of being killed at home,” said Angela Me of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Last year, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a decision to halt victims of domestic violence, among other crimes, from seeking asylum. Lawyers have sometimes pushed successfully for women to qualify as a social group because of the overwhelming violence they face. Sessions questioned whether women fleeing domestic violence can be members of a social group. Last month, the new attorney general, William Barr, broke with decades of precedent and issued a decision making it harder for families to qualify as social groups also.