Racial Hierarchies in Relation to Immigrant Women

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Many women that are associated into a Diaspora culture are, more often than not, discriminated against, and seemingly forgotten about. Informal power unfairly shapes the sexualities and employment statuses of immigrant women. These women constantly find themselves in situations that they have no control over. Basic human rights, social justice, and fundamental equality are all nonexistent in the lives of undocumented female farm workers. People of considerably higher power take advantage of these undocumented workers, give them zero respect, and take away their dignity. With a strong sense of fear of deportation and no longer being able to provide for the families, female immigrant workers remain silent and accept sexual abuse. Racial hierarchies confine immigrant women to a status of diminished personhood where their rights, culture, and sexual agency are all reduced to nothing.

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Undocumented laborers that come to America have very limited options for work. Jobs in the field are really the only available choice that illegal immigrants have. In the NPR documentary, “Rape in the Fields,” the hidden truth about what really happens to female farm workers, in the fields, is portrayed. This film exposed me to a horrible secret that most people throughout the United States still are oblivious to. Undocumented laborers, but very specifically—women, are raped and abused by their superiors. It is very easy for their powerful male superiors to get away with these horrendous acts, in the land hidden within the fields. These illegal immigrant women feel that they cannot speak up or else their supervisors will rat them out and they will have to leave America. This sad, yet real fear of deportation is the only reason male supervisors are getting away with this sexual violence. Many of these women have families and children to support—so they accept this violence and remain silent. No person should ever feel like this. Female undocumented laborers are truly being torn down to nothing. They have no voice, no say in anything, no protection, and absolutely no rights.

Although racial hierarchy plays a major role in the discrimination against immigrants—male hierarchy plays a bigger role. Female immigrants are easily taken advantage of and forgotten about. I do think there is a strong sense of racial hierarchies, but women are being dominated by men—regardless of what race their superior is. These men feel that they own the women and can make them do whatever they desire. Because the undocumented women are in the United States illegally, the men know that these women will basically do anything to stay. This is just disgusting and unacceptable. The males in charge use their mechanisms of power to reduce women to plain nothingness. Along with the awful nature of this situation, nothing has been followed up by our society to put it to an end. This abuse and rape is most definitely still occurring in the fields and women are still being silenced and stripped of their personhood, along with their rights.

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The undocumented female field workers who speak in “Rape in the Fields” risked a vast amount by speaking out publically. Their lives consist of days spent fearing deportation. Along with this fear of losing jobs and being forced to leave America, these undocumented workers also carry heavy loads of shame with them. No woman should ever be ashamed of being a victim of sexual assault and violence. Which is why California has created a new bill as an attempt to prevent and put an end to sexual violence towards female workers in the fields. The Bill is called “Bill to Protect Female Workers From Sex Abuse.” This Bill was originally brought up after the documentary “Rape in the Fields.” The law has made sexual harassment training mandatory for labor contractors and supervisors—and all other employees. Interestingly enough, before this Bill came into law—agricultural supervisors with 50 or more workers had to go through sexual harassment training every other year. Now all supervisors and employees, regardless of the number of workers employed, have to go through training. Along with these minor improvements to our justice system (California’s at least) the state can take away the license of a supervisor who has harassed an employee. This Bill gives me hope (and I am sure it gives female field laborers hope as well) that our country, and maybe even global society, is opening their eyes to the reality of sexual assault. While sexual assault and violence in the field has not been put to an end quite yet, the California Bill is helping us to get there.

We live in a society that is advanced enough to be able to comprehend how offensive, horrifying, and disgusting these men are to immigrant women. It was appalling to me too see the NPR documentary. Undocumented women are still receiving the same abuse and neglect. While steps are being taken towards helping the female field workers, undocumented laborers will still always have a fear of speaking up—even if it will get their abuser fired. Female farm workers should feel safe while working and protected from sexual abuse. The undocumented female laborers are being stripped of their basic human rights and are receiving no social justice. Women are constantly being sexually violated, abused, and exploited. As a society, we have to work to put this to an end and give all these women their rights and dignity back.

 

Do you think sexual assault and violence in the field can be stopped? What do you think should be done to help end it? What can be done to help these female immigrant workers?

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