Author: prostitutes victims of prejudice

Prostitutes immigrating into the United States in the 19th century faced a discriminatory social, political and economic environment along the southern border, Deidre Moloney, author of Women, Sexual Morality, and Economic Dependency in Early U.S. Deportation Policy, said Monday.

"Exclusionary deportation policies … shaped the future of American citizens," said Moloney, who is working on her next book, National Insecurities: U.S. Immigration and Deportation Policy Since 1882.

Moloney, who read excerpts from the in-progress book, compares the way the government handled the immigration of prostitutes in New York with the southern U.S. border.

Prostitutes arriving from Europe were encouraged to leave the sex industry through women’s advocacy groups and the government. European prostitutes were seen as immigrants who would become permanent citizens and therefore needed to reform, Moloney said. The groups supporting the change called the prostitutes "white slaves."

"(The label) ‘white slavery’ emphasizes that the victims are white," Moloney said.

Mexican prostitutes along the southern border were not seen as a threat to the United States for the most part, said Moloney, who researched case studies along the border.

Mexican women were often unknowingly admitted into the prostitution business, unlike their European counterparts.

"Mexican women were being kidnapped and no one paid attention," Moloney said. "The focus was on the New York and the European connection."

U.S. officials reported that Mexican women were often raped as initiation into the prostitution business. This implies that the Mexican women, unlike the Europeans, were really the slaves, Moloney said. But the term "white slaves" was not used to make people more sympathetic to all prostitutes, Moloney said, just the white ones.

"There was little outrage that non-white prostitutes started off (their jobs) with rape," Moloney said. "The fact that the (brothels) violated federal laws was their concern."

These allegations of rape were used to demonize Mexican men, Moloney said, making them look savage and violent. The U.S. never investigated the allegations, and women weren’t given an opportunity to voice their issues with the government, she said.

"It is hard to get the voices of the prostitutes themselves," Moloney said.

The U.S. saw the influx of all Mexicans as a new, low-wage workforce, Moloney said. The U.S. operated on "the presumption, it was all immigrant prostitutes and it was only immigrants that frequented them."

But law enforcement did go after prostitutes along the southern border. Despite being born in the U.S., a woman in 1909 was deported to Mexico after being arrested for prostitution because her estranged husband was Mexican, Moloney said.

The policy of the 1900s mirrors some of the immigration issues today, she said. The debate over giving undocumented people driver’s licenses, racial profiling and states’ rights are all pressing political issues.

"The local government, government federal and the state department all want something different," Moloney said.

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