National Immigration Forum

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Including Immigrant Women in the National Dialogue on Immigration

July 15, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas

Immigrant Women: Stewards of the 21st Century Family from New America Media on Vimeo.


We know that the debate on comprehensive immigration reform is coming, and it might be coming as soon as this fall. This was confirmed last week when Sen. Schumer stated in an interview with the Associated Press that he anticipates introducing an immigration reform bill by Labor Day. As Congress prepares to discuss how to fix our failed immigration system, it is important to have an accurate understanding of today’s immigrant population.


The face of immigration is changing. A growing number of immigrants are now women and they are playing an increasingly important role as family stewards, but nonetheless, women have been notoriously absent from the national dialogue on immigration.


Polling data released on Tuesday by New America Media a consortium of more than 2,500 ethnic media outlets nationwide — document the challenges and successes of immigrant women and their new roles and responsibilities in their new country. The poll, conducted by Bendixen and Associates, paints a picture of the immigrant community that is different from conventional perception: Women comprise half or more of immigrants entering this country and many are migrating to keep the family together even if it means traveling great distances and adapting to new cultures. Other important findings include:


§         Immigrant women face serious economic barriers during their first years in the United States, but see their most important challenge as helping their children succeed.


§         The “language barrier” is a major problem for immigrant women. 79% of Latin Americans, 73% of Vietnamese, 70% of Korean and 63% of Chinese reported their English proficiency is limited. They also confront anti-immigrant discrimination, lack of access to health care and low-paying employment.


§         Immigrant women assume new roles and responsibilities in the United States, often becoming increasingly independent


§         Immigrant women successfully keep their families intact; they are often the catalysts for their families becoming citizens of the United States.


§         Immigrant women demonstrate upward professional and economic movement.


    Women Immigrants: Stewards of the 21st Century, New America Media, May 2009.


The findings of this poll demonstrate that today’s immigrants share the same traditional values as most Americans. Immigrant women are committed to the success and unity of their families and they want to pursue citizenship to ensure family stability.


As policy-makers craft legislation to overhaul our immigration system, it is important that they consider the unique challenges of immigrant women and the important role they play as drivers of immigrant integration. Policies must allow equal access to the benefits of legalization for immigrant men and women, including women caretakers and those who work in the informal sector, so that the system can protect family reunification through family backlog reductions while promoting the integration of immigrant families in our country.


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