ICE Operation Limelight USA Bringing Awareness to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the New York Border Enforcement Security Taskforce (BEST) have started Operation Limelight USA to bring attention to Female Genital Mutilation and deter its practice through training, outreach and enforcement initiatives.
FGM is the intentional cutting and mutilating of female genitalia, whereby female organs are being injured for non-medical reasons. This is a violation of human rights, recognized internationally. It is a cruel practice for women and girls with no health benefits that has serious negative consequences such as severe bleeding, issues urinating, infections, mental health, increased risk during childbirth and even death. More than 200 million girls and women in the world, alive today have been subjected to this barbaric practice and it is concentrated in countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Many of the perpetrators performing this practice use their culture and tradition as the prime motivation to defend its continued use. This practice reflects above-all, deep rooted inequality among sexes and is an extreme form of discrimination against women.
The ICE program’s purpose is to inform female passengers traveling to countries where the practice is highly common about the U.S. laws governing FGM and the criminal, immigration and child protective consequences of taking a child to such a country for the distinct purpose of FGM. This is meant to target and raise awareness for the prevention of “vacation cutting”, where people are sending young girls out of the United States for the purposes of FGM. The ICE initiative has enlisted special agents who complete FGM training to educate passengers in transit to these high-risk countries, offering informational pamphlets and identifying potential victims and violators of FGM.
Federal law in the United States prohibits individuals from conducting, assisting or attempting to conduct FGM in this country or facilitate the international travel of female children to be mutilated outside the country. The program at JFK airport in New York is partnering with several government organizations along with local health practitioners, community groups and survivors to eradicate the practice. This reflects the need for involvement of all sectors of society in order to have a hope of eradicating this practice.
BOILA has had many successful African asylum cases of women and girls who have been subjected to FGM in their homelands or have a reasonable fear that they would be, were they forced to return to their country.