Analysis Sexuality

Harassment vs. Flirting: A Double Feature

Heather Corinna

What's the difference between flirting and harassment?  How does a person recognize and deal with harassment? How do we make sure we're not harassing anyone unintentionally?

Published in partnership with Scarleteen

evie05 asks:

I made a big fashion faux pas today to wear leggings without anything to cover my butt/crotch which resulted in a “cameltoe” (slang for labia majora being outlined through tight clothes). And a guy at school rudely pointed it out to me and implied I must have a lot of sex because that makes the outer lips more fleshy and prominent.

The thing is, I haven’t had any sex, I’m still a virgin, so I was pretty embarrassed and offended. I just thought cameltoe was caused by clingy, tight clothes. Was this guy just ignorant about girls’ bodies or is there some truth to what he is saying? I honestly feel ridiculous asking but I just had to make sure.

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Heather Corinna replies:

Let’s talk about what’s real when it comes to the size and shape of the labia and mons first, then address harassment. There’s nothing ridiculous about asking this, and nothing ridiculous about looking for comfort and reassurance after you’ve been sexually harassed. Harassment tends to leave us feeling uncomfortable, insecure and upset, after all, so good on you for seeking out what you need to take care of yourself after being harassed.

How much sex someone has or hasn’t had, and whatever their sexual history has or hasn’t entailed won’t likely have any influence at all on the size or shape of the vulva. The mons and outer labia specifically are mostly fatty tissue, so how prominent they are or aren’t has a lot to do with how fat is distributed there. That’s mostly about genetics but can also be influenced by how much a person weighs, how and where they carry their weight and also with water weight. Back to genetics again, how those portions appear is also going to be about bone structure: all our bones aren’t the same, and how our parts look is related to the size and proportions of the bones beneath them.

When you are sexually aroused or actually engaged in any kind of sex, including masturbation, both those areas can also tend to swell and look bigger or more prominent. But once a person isn’t aroused anymore, that swelling goes down pretty quickly and doesn’t last over days, months of years, just like if your face gets flushed from exercise, once you chill out and your heart rate goes back down, it stops being so red.

For sure, clothing can change how things look, too. However, I hope you know that wearing leggings or anything else that may make those parts of your body less hidden doesn’t make harassment warranted or your fault. Jean Seberg and Edie Sedgwick rocked that look like nobody’s business in the mid-1960s: it wasn’t a fashion faux pas, it was totally trendsetting. Mind, if you feel like that’s not a look you like or feel comfortable in, you don’t have to wear it again, but whether or not something you wear is or isn’t fashionable isn’t based on whether or not you got harassed when you were wearing it. Alas, there’s absolutely nothing anyone can or can’t wear to assure they won’t be harassed or attacked in some way. If only!

Sometimes, without intent, a given clothing choice will result in others being able to see parts of our bodies we don’t mean them to, or don’t mean to expose, but that doesn’t mean that wearing whatever that is means we’re giving anyone a green light to harass us. Sexual harassment is an abuse, and like other kinds of abuses, the person at fault is the person who chooses to abuse someone: harassment is that person’s fault and responsibility, not your fault or your leggings’ fault. If and when we earnestly feel someone might be exposing something they don’t want to be, the thing to do is to either just look away or to say something to them kindly, discreetly and and with as much sensitivity as we can muster, rather than say, making sexual comments or taking a picture of their exposed parts and selling it to a magazine.

I don’t know if this guy was ignorant, because I don’t know if he thought what he said to you was true or not. Clearly, he was harassing you, probably because he meant to harass you. When people aim to do that, they usually aren’t after what’s true, they’re after power and getting a reaction; they aim to make you feel powerless and humiliated, not give you bonafide information about your body. So, in my book, once someone is harassing me or someone else, I figure their credibility is shot, and I should figure that whatever they say — even if I might take some of what they say as a compliment in a different context — it’s probably either not true or that even if it is, what it’s motivated by makes it something I should dismiss by default.

Another reader recently asked a different question about harassment, and I think both of you could benefit from each other’s questions and answers.

Samuel F. asks:

My mom has talked with me about flirting and the difference between that and harassment, but what more broadly can I know about flirting and subtlety without crossing over into sexual harassment?

A commonly used definition (including in law and policy) of sexual harassment is this: unwelcome advances or requests for sexual favors, and other unwanted verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. It’s often added that submission to or rejection of that conduct explicitly or implicitly can or does affect a person’s employment or education, can or does unreasonably interfere with a person’s work or educational performance, or can or does create an intimidating, hostile or offensive working or learning environment. Harassment can be something someone only does one time, or it can be ongoing.

I’m not sure what your Mom explained to you around this, but I think if we want to get down to the lowest common denominator we can about the difference between flirting and harassment, we can think of flirting as things we do to put our interest in someone out there in ways we suspect they’ll welcome, feel comfortable with and which would incline them to want to connect with us more. We can think of harassment as putting our feelings or wants out there in ways that either would not likely be welcomed, or where we dismiss or don’t think about the other person’s comfort, and which aren’t about trying to incline someone to want to connect with us, but instead forces an interaction, whether they want to interact with us or not.

That’s a little oversimplified for my taste, though, so let me dig in a bit more deeply.

Looking back at Evie’s post, I think it’s clear that was harassment. I think that because a) that guy was making comments to about her body parts and her sex life, which are very personal and private things, b) putting a sexual judgment on her, and c) these were unwelcome comments he also probably knew were unwelcome and intended to be unwelcome. Evie didn’t ask him to give her feedback about her outfit, her body parts, or his perceptions of her sex life. As well, when we’re flirting, we’re generally trying to incline someone to want to spend more time with us, not trying to make someone feel embarrassed, ashamed and inclined to try and run away from us as fast as they possibly can.

The new book, Hey, Shorty!: A Guide to Combating Sexual Harassment and Violence in Schools and on the Streets (Joanne Smith, Meghan Huppuch, Mandy Van Deven, Girls for Gender Equity; The Feminist Press at CUNY, 2011) addresses your question, and talks about how “sexual harassment is unwanted behaviour while flirting is a wanted behaviour.” The authors list some ways people on the receiving end of these behaviors can tell the difference with these two lists:

Flirting: Feels good, you enjoy it, motivated by attraction, shared, flattering
Sexual Harassment: Feels uncomfortable, you feel ashamed, motivated by power, one-sided, humiliating

Looking at what happened to Evie, I think you can see it’s easy to tick all those boxes in the second list, and none in the first, and know Evie was harassed.

When we’re flirting, the aim is usually to express our interest in someone else in a friendly, noninvasive way and to feel out if the other person shares that interest in us and, if they do, to make clear we’re open to that. Our aim in flirting is to make the other person feel comfortable being around us or getting closer to us. With harassment, either the aim is to make someone feel uncomfortable, or the person harassing just isn’t even really thinking about the other person; isn’t caring or thinking about how they feel at all. When someone is harassing someone else, they’re trying to force an interest in them or attention to them, not trying to set the stage for that interest or attention only if the other person wants to interact.

So, we’re going to want to avoid doing anything that might or likely would make someone feel uncomfortable, attacked, vulnerable or violated by, both because feeling that way will likely turn them off, but also because our aim isn’t to make them feel bad, but to make them feel good.

Consent matters here, in similar ways I talked about with you in a previous question and answer. In this piece, we talk about consent with and without words, and about how nonverbal cues are a lot tougher to read than words. That’s both because they’re more subtle, but also because we’re not all the same people. What might be a nonverbal cue of interest from one person might be a cue of disinterest from someone else. So, we want to be careful trying to read and react only to those kinds of cues, especially if and when we don’t know someone very well yet, or when we’re not super-confident in our ability to read nonverbal cues well on the whole or with that person. When in doubt, it’s best to start with two-way communications that involve words.

We can flirt in ways where we’re asking for permissions to engage with someone else in that way. For instance, questions like “I like talking with you, do you want go sit over here alone where we can talk some more?” or “I’d like to sit a little closer to you, is that okay?” make your interest clear, but they also make clear that you care about that person’s boundaries, and that you’re giving them all the room in the world to decline interacting with you in those ways if they don’t want to.

A lot of flirting also involves making clear you’re interested in the other person as a whole person, and actually want to connect with them, so asking about themselves and their lives are basic parts of flirting. When you ask about those things, you want to aim to ask about things you think most people would openly share with each other. Asking what they like to do when they’re not at school or where they’re from, for example, is fine. Asking them if they’ve had sex before or if they’re wearing underwear? Not so much.

Another tip I can share is to figure that unless you know for sure someone has romantic or sexual interest in you, figure at first that they don’t and treat your interactions like you’re nonsexual and nonromantic friends or work colleagues. In other words, someone who we meant to be a platonic friend only is probably not someone whose crotch we’d stare at or make sexual suggestions to; someone who was our boss isn’t someone we’d expect to welcome love letters from us. Until you’re pretty sure someone’s interest in you is sexual or romantic, tread lightly.

For sure, sometimes that approach may result in someone not picking up on your romantic or sexual interest in them who may well share that interest, but I’d say it’s better to miss out on a possible opportunity to connect with someone than to invade a person’s physical or emotional space. Plus, even if you miss out on that opportunity once, you can always take more time to get to know someone to develop a better sense of what they want and what kind of attention from you they welcome.

If we don’t know someone well or aren’t certain they want sexual or romantic attention from us yet, it’s wise to consider anything overt around those things off-limits with flirting. “You’ve got a great rack,” “You seem like you’d be fun in bed,” or “Just so you know, I give really good head,” isn’t usually going to hit it out of the park with people who aren’t already in an intimate relationship with you, aren’t already very comfortable with you, or who don’t have interest in being sexual with you. Comments like those are usually to feel like harassment to people outside those spheres, especially those who are members of groups which are more sexually vulnerable or more routinely or institutionally harassed or objectified. Sometimes you might hear straight guys say they’d love to hear those kinds of comments, but in reality it probably wouldn’t be as great like it might seem, especially when those kinds of comments were things you heard all the time, often came from people you didn’t like, have interest in or feel safe around yet, or if that was the only or primary way the world seemed to see and interact with you.

On the other hand, comments like “You have a great smile,” “You’re a lot of fun,” or “I really like to dance, do you?” are generally a lot more welcomed, more appropriate and are unlikely to harass anyone, especially if when they don’t respond or don’t respond warmly, you walk away and give them space, figuring you threw a ball out there and they decided not to catch it, so it’s a no-go.

You can think about actions the same way. Making direct eye contact is a way to show your interest and invite someone else’s, and doesn’t tend to push boundaries or be perceived as inappropriate. Someone can always just look away (and if and when they do, that’s usually a cue that they’re not interested). On the other hand, staring at someone’s bottom is a different story, especially since their bottom can’t stare back: it’s a one-way interaction. Remember: flirting is about interactions we intend to be two-way. Smiling at someone is often part of how people flirt, as is having open body language, like not sitting with your arms crossed or your body turned away from them. You cam smile at them and see if they smile back; you can turn towards them and see if they turn towards you or turn away. If you want to touch someone, you can always ask first, like this, “I’d like to kiss you, may I?” or, in the immortal words of the Beatles, “I want to hold your hand,” followed by an “Is that okay?” before you do hold their hand. Touching someone’s body on purpose without asking first often isn’t okay.

Most of the time, people harassing other people do know what they’re doing, but now and then, people really don’t. None of us is psychic, and we’re always human, so sometimes we’ll just misread people or overstep a little bit. We also don’t all have the same skills or abilities when it comes to perceiving and reading other people’s nonverbal cues. I don’t know what your own skillset and ability is like there, which makes it a bit tougher for me to give you personal advice around this. Your Mom, as someone who has known you your whole life, probably has a better sense of that, so if, after reading this, you still feel unclear, it might be a good idea to talk about this some more with her, picking up from the last talk the two of you had.

The “unwanted” past of the definition of harassment is important, but so is recognizing that we just can’t always know what people want and don’t. Motives matter: do you mean to make someone feel backed into a corner, embarrassed or ashamed? Do you mean to try and put yourself in a position of power over them? Or were you trying to be kind, flattering and to connect with them in a way that was about both of you and that felt good to you both? If you truly don’t mean to harass someone, but they experience your words or actions that way, it’s not the end of the world, and is usually easy to remedy.

If and when you misread someone’s cues or otherwise accidentally overstep their boundaries and they express feeling harassed or behave in a way that makes clear your words or actions were not welcomed or wanted, you’ll just want to employ some basic etiquette. Apologize gently and briefly (like, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to bother you,” or “My apologies, I overstepped, but didn’t mean to. Have a good night with your friends.”), then back off. Do not stick around to keep trying to get what you want from them, whether that’s about getting them to assure you you’re not a jerk or getting them to pay you attention you wanted in the first place. If you do that, you’ll usually only continue to make them feel uncomfortable. If after that kind of mistake, you feel bad about yourself, rather than trying to get reassurance from them, talk to a friend or someone in your family instead to get the comfort you need.

I hope you know this advice and information isn’t just about how you might behave towards someone else, but also how someone else might behave towards you. These aren’t just tips on how you should aim to behave, they’re expectations you get to have about others behavior towards you. Sometimes guys only get messages about harassment as if it’s only them who could harass anyone or like it’s only bad news for women to be harassed, but it’s fine for people to harass men. Neither of those things are true. It’s not okay for anyone to harass anyone or for anyone to be harassed. So, in the case you ever feel harassed yourself, you get to call it out and ask people to step off, too, and if and when they don’t respect those limits and boundaries, it’s their bad, not yours.

How a person decides to deal with sexual harassment when it happens is up to them. If it’s a one-time thing, they may just walk away and blow it off, getting away from the person and situation, and that alone can make it all stop. If a person didn’t mean to harass, that’s often all the other person will need to do for them to get the hint and back off. When a person does mean to harass someone, they’re looking for a reaction, so sometimes just not giving them one can put an end to it.

Other times, especially if harassment is ongoing or the other person isn’t stopping when we don’t react, that approach may not work and we’ll need to try saying something very directly and clearly. If someone is harassing you, it’s ideal to make it very clear to them that a) you do not like what they are doing and b) you want them to stop what they are doing. Depending on the situation, you can do that with words, in writing, or both. If you need support to feel comfortable or safe doing that, ask a friend to stand with you.

And sometimes, we’ll have tried all of those things and someone still won’t stop harassing. Sexual harassment isn’t lawful in many areas, and ongoing harassment can massively disrupt a person’s life, feeling of safety and sense of self, so it’s totally appropriate to report harassment to an outside source, like a bystander, school administrator, boss or the police. You can do that if you’ve tried other things and you’re not getting results, or even if you haven’t: it’s always okay to ask for help from others when you need it.

Here are a few extra links to help round all of this out:

Commentary Race

Have a Problem With Black-Only Spaces? Get Over It

Ruth Jeannoel

As the parade of police killings of Black people continues, Black people have a right to mourn together—and without white people.

This piece is published in collaboration with Echoing Ida, a Forward Together project.

Dear Non-Black People:

If you hear about a healing space being organized for Black folks only, don’t question or try to be part of that space.

Simply, DON’T.

After again witnessing the recorded killings of Black people by police, I am trying to show up for my family, my community, and victims such as Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. I am tired of injustice and ready for action.

But as a Black trans youth from the Miami, Florida-based S.O.U.L. Sisters Leadership Collective told me, “Before taking action, we must create space for healing.” With this comment, they led us in the right direction.

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Together, this trans young person, my fellow organizers, and I planned a Black-only community healing circle in Miami. We recognized a need for Black people to come together and care for each other. A collective space to heal is better than suffering and grieving alone.

As we began mobilizing people to attend the community circle, our efforts were met with confusion and resistance by white and Latinx people alike. Social media comments questioned why there needed to be a Black-only space and alleged that such an event was “not fair” and exclusionary.

We know the struggle against white supremacy is a multiracial movement and needs all people. So we planned and shared that there would be spaces for non-Black people of color and white people at the same time. We explained that this particular healing circle—and the fight against police violence—must be centered around Blackness.

But there was still blowback. One Facebook commenter wrote,

Segregation and racial separation is not acceptable. Disappointing.

That is straight bullshit.

To be clear, Black-only space is itself acceptable, and there’s a difference between Black people choosing to come together and white people systematically excluding others from their institutions and definitions of humanity.

But as I recognize that Black people can’t have room to mourn by ourselves without white tears, white shame, white guilt—and, yes, white supremacy—I am angry.

That is what racist laws have often tried to do: Control how Black people assemble. Enslaved people were often barred from gathering, unless it was with white consent or for church.

Even today, we see resistance when Black folks come together, for a variety of reasons. Earlier this year, in Nashville, Tennessee, Black Lives Matter activists were forced to move their meeting out of a library because it was a Black-only meeting. Last year, students at University of Missouri held a series of protests to demand an end to systemic racism and structural racism on their campus. The student group, Concerned Students 1950, called for their own Black-only-healing space, and they too received backlash from their white counterparts and the media.

At our healing circle in Miami, a couple of white people tried to be part of the Black-only space, which was held in another room. One of the white youths came late and asked why she had to be in a different room from Black attendees. I asked her this question: Do you feel like you are treated the same as your Black peers when they walk down the street?

When she answered no, I told her that difference made it important for Black people to connect without white people in the room. We talked about how to engage in political study that can shape how we view—and change—this world.

She understood. It was simple.

I have less compassion for adults who are doing social justice work and who do not understand. If you do not recognize your privilege as a non-Black person, then you need to reassess why you are in this movement.

Are you here to save the world? Do you feel guilty because of what your family may have done in the past or present? Are you marching to show that you are a “good” person?

If you are organizing to shift and shake up white supremacy but can’t understand your privilege under this construct, then this movement is not for you.

For the white folk and non-Black people of color who are sincerely fighting the anti-Blackness at the root of most police killings, get your people. Many of them are “progressive” allies with whom I’ve been in meetings, rallies, or protests. It is time for you to organize actions and events for yourselves to challenge each other on anti-Blackness and identify ways to fight against racial oppression, instead of asking to be in Black-only spaces.

Objecting to a Black-only space is about self-interest and determining who gets to participate. And it shows how little our allies understand that white supremacy gives European-descended people power, privilege, and profit—or that non-Black people of color often also benefit from white supremacy just because they aren’t Black in this anti-Black world.

Our critics were using racial privilege to access a space that was not for them or by them. In the way that white supremacy and capitalism are about individualism and racing to the top, they were putting their individual feelings, rights, and power above Black people’s rights to fellowship and talk about how racism has affected them.

We deserve Black-only community healing because this is our pain. We are the ones who are most frequently affected by police violence and killings. And we know there is a racial empathy gap, which means that white Americans, in particular, are less likely to feel our pain. And the last thing Black people need right now is to be in a room with people who can’t or won’t try to comprehend, who make our hurt into a spectacle, or who deny it with their defensiveness.

Our communal responses to that pain and healing are not about you. And non-Black people can’t determine the agenda for Black action—or who gets a seat at our table.

To Black folks reading this article, just know that we deserve to come together to cry, be angry, be confused, and be ready to fight without shame, pain, or apologies.

And, actually, we don’t need to explain this, any more than we need to explain that Black people are oppressed in this country.

Analysis Politics

Donald Trump and Mike Pence: The Anti-Immigrant Ticket

Tina Vasquez

“My greatest fear is that this ticket doesn’t seem to realize immigrants are actually an incredible resource that fuels our country," Wendy Feliz of the American Immigration Council told Rewire.

On Friday, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump announced Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate, giving legitimacy to concerns a Trump presidency would be anti-choice and decimate LGBTQ rights. As Rewire reported last week, Pence has voted against nondiscrimination efforts, signed a so-called religious freedom bill, opposed marriage equality, and attemptednumerous times—to defund Planned Parenthood, something Trump has promised to do if elected president.

But the two Republicans also have something else in common: They are brazenly anti-immigrant.

Despite a misleading article from the Daily Beast asserting that Pence has had a “love affair with immigration reform” and has “spent his political career decrying anti-immigrant rhetoric,” the governor’s record on immigration tells a different story.

Let’s take a look at Trump’s “xenophobic” and “racist” campaign thus far, and how closely Pence’s voting aligns with that position.

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Donald Trump

For months it seemed, Donald Trump’s talking points in the media rarely drifted away from anti-immigrant rhetoric. During his kickoff speech, he referred to Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “killers” and in the months since, has promised to build a 2,000-mile-long wall along the United States-Mexico border to keep “illegals” out, a wall the billionaire has promised that Mexico will pay for.

Despite being called “racist” by members of his own party, Trump’s immigration plan is largely consistent with what many Republicans have called for: a larger border wall, increasing the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, requiring all U.S. companies to use E-Verify to check the immigration status of employees, increasing the use of detention for those who are undocumented and currently residing in the United States, and ending “birthright citizenship,” which would mean the U.S.-born children of undocumented parents would be denied citizenship.

Again, Trump’s proposed immigration policies align with the Republican Party’s, but it is the way that he routinely spreads false, damaging information about undocumented immigrants that is worrisome. Trump has repeatedly said that economically, undocumented immigrants are “killing us by “taking our jobs, taking our manufacturing jobs, taking our money.” 

Market Watch, a publication focusing on financial news, reported that this falsehood is something that a bulk of Trump supporters believe; two-thirds of Trump supporters surveyed in the primaries said they feel immigration is a burden on our country “because ‘they take our jobs, housing and health care.'” This, despite research that says deporting the 11 million undocumented immigrants who currently call the United States home would result in a “massive economic hit” for Trump’s home state of New York, which receives $793 million in tax revenue from undocumented immigrants. A recent report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy also found that at the state and local level, undocumented immigrants nationwide collectively pay an estimated $11.6 billion each year in taxes.

Trump has also been accused by Muslim Americans and members of the media of engaging in “reckless, dangerous Islamophobia” at every opportunity, using terrorist attacks to call for a ban on all Muslim immigration, while also using terrorism in a self-aggrandizing manner. In a statement released after the Pulse nightclub shooting, Trump said, “I said this was going to happen.”

These dangerous assertions that all U.S.-based Muslims are secretly harboring terrorists or that undocumented immigrants are killing “thousands of peoplea narrative he continued to push at the Republican National Convention by having the families of three Americans killed by undocumented people speak—can be deadly and inspire hatred and violence. This was made all the more clearer when in August 2015 two white brothers cited Trump when they urinated on and beat a homeless Latino man. According to Huffington Post, the men “alegedly [sic] told police they targeted the man because of his ethnicity and added, ‘Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.’” Trump’s response? He said that his supporters are simply “passionate” people who want America “to be great again.”

Mike Pence

Wendy Feliz, a spokesperson with the American Immigration Council, succinctly summarized Pence’s immigration approach to Rewire, saying on Monday that he “basically falls into a camp of being more restrictive on immigration, someone who looks for more punitive ways to punish immigrants, rather than looking for the positive ways our country can benefit from immigrants.”

After Trump’s announcement that Pence would be his running mate, Immigration Impact, a project of the American Immigration Council, outlined what voters should know about Pence’s immigration record:

Pence’s record shows he used his time in Congress and as the Governor of Indiana to pursue extreme and punitive immigration policies earning him a 100 percent approval rating by the anti-immigration group, Federation for American Immigration Reform.

In 2004 when Pence was a senator, he voted for the “Undocumented Alien Emergency Medical Assistance Amendments.” The bill failed, but it would have required hospitals to gather and report information on undocumented patients before hospitals could be reimbursed for treating them. Even worse, the bill wouldn’t have required hospitals to provide care to undocumented patients if they could be deported to their country of origin without a “significant chance” of their condition getting worse.

Though it’s true that in 2006 Pence championed comprehensive immigration reform, as the Daily Beast reported, the reform came with two caveats: a tightening of border security and undocumented immigrants would have to “self-deport” and come back as guest workers. While calling for undocumented immigrants to self-deport may seem like the more egregious demand, it’s important to contextualize Pence’s call for an increase in border security.

This tactic of calling for more Border Patrol agents is commonly used by politicians to pacify those opposed to any form of immigration reform. President Obama, who has utilized more border security than any other president, announced deferred action for the undocumented in June 2012, while also promising to increase border security. But in 2006 when Pence was calling for an increase in border security, the border enforcement policy known as “Operation Gatekeeper” was still in full swing. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Operation Gatekeeper “concentrated border agents and resources along populated areas, intentionally forcing undocumented immigrants to extreme environments and natural barriers that the government anticipated would increase the likelihood of injury and death.” Pence called for more of this, although the undocumented population expanded significantly even when border enforcement resources escalated. The long-term results, the ACLU reported, were that migrants’ reliance on smugglers to transport them increased and migrant deaths multiplied.

There are more direct ways Pence has illustrated a xenophobic agenda, including co-sponsoring a congressional bill that would have made English the official language of the United States and as governor, blocking Syrian refugees en route to Indiana, saying he would not accept any more Syrian refugees out of fear they were “terrorists.” The governor also added Indiana to the Texas lawsuit challenging expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). And he praised the inaction by the Supreme Court last month to expand DACA and DAPA, which leaves millions of undocumented immigrants living in fear of deportation.

According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, “when a child who is not accompanied by a parent or legal guardian is apprehended by immigration authorities, the child is transferred to the care and custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Federal law requires that ORR feed, shelter, and provide medical care for unaccompanied children until it is able to release them to safe settings with sponsors (usually family members), while they await immigration proceedings.”

The ORR added that these sponsors “live in many states,” including Indiana, which received 245 unaccompanied minors between January and July 2014. Pence was reportedly unaware that unaccompanied minors were being placed in his state by the federal government, something he said he was made aware of by media reports. These are asylum seeking children, often girls under the age of 10, escaping violence in their countries of origin who arrive at the United States-Mexico border without an adult. Many, including advocacy organizations and the Obama administration, have contended that the circumstances surrounding unaccompanied minors is not simply an immigration issue, but a humanitarian crisis. Not Pence. In a letter to President Obama, the Indiana governor wrote:

While we feel deep compassion for these children, our country must secure its borders and provide for a legal and orderly immigration process …. Failure to expedite the return of unaccompanied children thwarts the rule of law and will only continue to send a distorted message that illegally crossing into America is without consequence.

In the four days since Pence was named Trump’s running mate, he’s also taken a much harsher stance on Muslim immigration. Back in December when Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” Pence tweeted that banning Muslims from entering the United States was “offensive and unconstitutional.” However, on Friday when Pence was officially named Trump’s VP pick, he told Fox News’ Sean Hannity, “I am very supportive of Donald Trump’s call to temporarily suspend immigration from countries where terrorist influence and impact represents a threat to the United States.”

Wendy Feliz of the American Immigration Council told Rewire that while Pence’s rhetoric may not be as inflammatory as Trump’s, it’s important to look at his record in relation to Trump’s to get a better understanding of what the Republican ticket intends to focus on moving into a possible presidency. Immigration, she said, is one of the most pressing issues of our time and has become a primary focus of the election.

“In a few days, we’ll have a better sense of the particular policies the Republican ticket will be pursuing on immigration. It all appears to point to more of the same, which is punitive, the punishing of immigrants,” Feliz said. “My greatest fear is that this ticket doesn’t seem to realize immigrants are actually an incredible resource that fuels our country. I don’t think Trump and Pence is a ticket that values that. An administration that doesn’t value immigrants, that doesn’t value what’s fueled our country for the past several hundred years, hurts all of us. Not just immigrants themselves, but every single American.”