It’s time to take the sexism out of the debate on immigration reform

It’s time to take the sexism out of the debate on immigration reform

LatinaLista — Over the years in covering the immigration issue, if there is one thing that I've noticed, it's that immigration is discussed by policymakers and politicians in a very sexist manner. It wasn't until the mid-2000s that they, and the media, even acknowledged that women immigrants were part of the migration flow.


It was Elvira Arellano, who fought her deportation from the U.S. to her native Mexico in 2007 by taking refuge in a Chicago church, who first opened Washington's eyes that its decisions on immigration reform could have profound impacts and lasting consequences on women immigrants and their children.

Now, the prospect that immigrant women could still be shortchanged in whatever immigration solution will be reached in the near future seems ludicrous given that women comprise over half of today's immigrants, and according to the Migration Policy Institute, "100 immigrant women arrive in the United States for every 96 men."

Again, it's a sexist perspective that has policymakers and politicians looking to reform immigration, not as a humanitarian gesture, but as an economic strategy. But it can be both — it has to be both.

Regardless of citizenship status, immigrant women have long been known to be industrious and entrepreneurial. Yet, if they aren't afforded equal workplace protections and considerations in an immigration reform bill, the country will have wasted the opportunity to take advantage of a workforce that not only does the work but does it with an eye to doing it better and more efficiently.

Immigrant women, like women everywhere, are the backbone of their families. Separating them from their children or vice versa destroys a family unit that, in economic terms, can cost society thousands of dollars.

It's long been known among mental health officials that immigrant women who are abused are the most vulnerable of all in the population. Yet, too many of the undocumented immigrant women endure the atrocities of physical and emotional abuse because of fear of deportation. Whether it's at the hands of their partners/husbands or the unfair treatment by their employers, immigrant women need the legal protection afforded to every citizen of the United States.

These women are not just "immigrant" women, they are women period. Women who work, take care of their families and deserve to be recognized as the ones for whom immigration reform will be a profoundly life-changing policy that will either liberate them to fully contribute to this country or keep them shackled to sexist expectations that will serve as no solution to a national argument.

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