A New America Media survey released July14 provides further evidence that female immigrants come to the United States not necessarily to make more money, but to build better futures for their children and create permanent homes for their families. A majority of the 1,000+ women interviewed stated that they came to the US to join family members already here. Women hailed from Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the Arab world.
NAM, together with the Ford Foundation, the New York Immigration Coalition, and the New York Community Media Alliance convened this past week to discuss the needs of female immigrants and consider ways that the Obama administration could and should address immigrant women’s needs when talking immigration reform.
The reproductive health of immigrant women is profoundly affected by immigration policy and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health supports immigration reform that will include a path to citizenship and protection for all immigrant families. Much of the current immigration reform debate excludes family issues that are important to women. Just about half of the 35 million immigrants in the US are women, and as such, it is crucial to understand the different reasons that often draw Latina immigrants to the US so their rights can be better addressed by reform efforts.
The Department of Homeland Security just issued a ruling that adds domestic violence to the list of possible reasons for granting asylum to female immigrants, a step in the right direction. Also included in their appropriations bill is a provision for allowing orphans, widows, and widowers to continue in the family immigration system when the sponsoring relative dies. At present, the US Citizenship and Immigration Service typically denies the petition after the death of a sponsoring relative, a devastating decision for individuals that have been waiting for long periods of time to be reunited with family members.
Female immigrants often face obstacles like limited access to health care, educational and job opportunities, and a limited knowledge of English once they are in America. The influence that American culture has on this population is evident in the survey results; more female immigrants consider themselves the head of their household, become more assertive, and take on more responsibilities that in their home countries would be handled by men.
There are significant political, economic, and human reasons for changing immigration laws this year; it’s time that legislators step up efforts in creating comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
For more information on advocating on behalf of immigrant women in immigration reform, visit the National Coalition of Immigrant Women’s Rights.
By Norma Haro, Research Intern