ICE Raising Awareness of Female Genital Mutilation at Nation’s Busiest Airports
#EndFGMToday Applauds ICE’s Efforts to Protect 200 Million Girls and Women Worldwide Who Are Subjected to This Brutal—and Illegal—Practice
WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is working to combat the global and domestic scourge of female genital mutilation (FGM) by offering awareness programs at the nation’s largest and busiest airports.
According to ICE, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents along with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, have conducted awareness and training events at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Washington’s Dulles International Airport and Newark International Airport over the past several weeks. A similar initiative took place at New York’s JFK airport in 2017.
The national #EndFGMToday initiative and its leader, international child advocate and attorney Elizabeth Yore, is applauding ICE’s efforts.
“If ICE is committed to conducting these awareness events in the busiest airports during the summer months, we know that what we’ve thought all along is true,” Yore said. “Thousands of little girls are at risk to have their genitals mutilated, either right here in the U.S. or taken to other countries to have the physically and emotionally scarring procedure known as ‘vacation cutting’ forced upon them. If FGM wasn’t a major problem in the U.S., why would this dedicated department conduct training at four major airports where perpetrators are potentially shuttling girls in and out of the country?”
The ICE FGM events have the goal to bring awareness to the illegal practice of female genital mutilation and to educate people about the serious penalties that exist under U.S. law for engaging in this horrific practice.
The outreach efforts at the airports were an extension of Operation Limelight USA, a pilot program designed by HSI’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center to bring awareness to FGM and deter its practice. The program is a U.S.-based version of the United Kingdom’s Operation Limelight at Heathrow Airport. HSI aims to continue expanding outreach at additional international departure points to areas where FGM is commonly practiced to ensure travelers are aware that it is a crime under U.S. law.
“Removing or cutting the genital organs of a female child is a federal crime regardless of whether it’s done inside the U.S. or the child is transported outside the country for that purpose,” said HSI Atlanta Special Agent in Charge Nick Annan in an ICE statement. “FGM is irreversible and HSI, along with its law enforcement partners, will seek prosecution of anyone subject to U.S. law it finds attempting to engage in its illegal practice.”
As part of Operation Limelight USA, special agents who complete FGM-related training speak to passengers flying to or from high-risk countries, offer informational brochures and identify potential victims and violators of FGM. These discussions both educate passengers on the consequences of involvement in FGM and provide passengers with a means to refer cases or receive victim assistance.
ICE reports that FGM provides no health benefits and, in fact, can cause severe health effects—significant bleeding and acute pain, as well as life-long consequences of chronic infection, childbirth complications, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and even death. The airport events were held at the beginning of summer vacation when girls may be sent from the United States to other countries to undergo FGM, or “vacation cutting,” as Yore also noted.
ICE asks that anyone with information about victims or perpetrators of female genital mutilation call the toll-free ICE tip line at (866) 347-2423 or complete the ICE online tip form.
According to a 2016 estimation by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), around 200 million women living today have undergone this procedure. Yore added that FGM is recognized by both the World Health Organization and the U.N. as a human rights violation, and the Centers for Disease Control estimates that 513,000 girls and women are at risk of FGM in the United States.
Learn more about FGM at www.EndFGMToday.com or on social media at #EndFGMToday.