Mexican migrant women's dangerous journey

More single Mexican women are seeking illegal entrance into the U.S., and taking huge risks along the way.

Published January 10, 2006 7:40PM (EST)

An increasing number of single women are sneaking across the border from Mexico into the United States in search of work, today's New York Times reports. Of course, illegal border crossing is nothing new, but it used to be that women crossed the border mostly only to join their husbands. Now, drawn by higher wages and better medical care, they're going it alone.

The report may be an interesting indicator of Mexican women's independence, but it's also full of sad stories. The Times article details the dangers would-be immigrants face: Many bankrupt themselves by paying (often unreliable) guides to help them cross the border, and risk illness and injury during the harrowing trip. Even if they make it across, they're pretty likely to be picked up by border patrol and sent home, even poorer than when they started their journey. And women traveling alone are vulnerable to sexual assault by their guides and others they encounter.

You can argue that these are risks that migrant women sign up for when they attempt to cross illegally, or that they shouldn't attempt illegal immigration in the first place. But the choice between staying in a country where they can't make a living wage or going to one where they can isn't much of a choice, especially for single mothers with mouths to feed.

And speaking of those mouths to feed, here's one of the Times story's most interesting tidbits:

"Here in Arizona, a tide of anti-immigrant sentiment has swelled along with the number of border crossers, some of it directed particularly at women. Many taxpayers say they resent that their tax dollars are being spent to educate these women's children and pay for their delivery costs at local hospitals."

"These women's children," huh? If they were born in the U.S., "these women's children" are as American any other kids in school. But also, why get especially angry at the female immigrants? It's not like "these women" got pregnant all by themselves.

By Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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