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Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Columns & Features > Global Views > New poll finds moving to America strengthens immigrant women

New poll finds moving to America strengthens immigrant women

LatinaLista — It’s long been known, over the last ten years, that women and girl immigrants were arriving in the United States in increasing numbers. It’s also been known among mental health officials who service the Spanish-speaking population that these immigrant women face the same obstacles as the male immigrants — plus more.
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With little command of the English language, no strong family support network and unfamiliarity with US systems and processes, these women struggle on a daily basis to achieve their perception of the American Dream.
A new poll by New America Media, entitled Immigrant Women: Stewards of the 21st Century, reveals that with all the adversities they face, these women credit moving to America in making positive changes to their lives.

The poll found that as many women settled in America, they also radically altered their roles in their private lives. Almost one-third report having assumed head-of-household responsibilities or sharing equally with their husbands the decision-making on everything from household finances to family planning. Moreover, the poll found that the overwhelming majority—Latin American (81%), Chinese (71%), Vietnamese (68%), African (66%) and Arabic (53%)—said they had become more assertive at home and in public after moving to America.

It’s a good thing that they have learned to stand up for themselves because as the poll further shows, no one else is going to be able to take their place in confronting the challenges that threaten the safety and health of them and their families.


Of the over 1,000 immigrant women surveyed for the poll, researchers discovered the expected and unexpected among the thousands of answers.

  • 82% of Latin American women found discrimination against immigrants to be a major problem for their family, compared to 17% for women from African or Arab countries, and only 13% for those from China. Still, 90% of the Latin American women said they want to become US citizens.
  • 40% of immigrant women from Latin America and significant percentages from other regions do not have health insurance. A clear majority of women immigrants without health insurance are unaware of public health programs that could help their children receive medical assistance.
  • A majority of immigrant women from China, Korea, the Philippines, India, Africa and Arab countries describe their last job in their home country as “professional.” The study reveals that a substantial percentage of them have not found comparable employment in the United States. Their current jobs in America include working as a hotel maid, restaurant waitress, factory technician, house cleaner and textile worker. These results, and others, indicate that women may well be putting devotion to the well-being of their families ahead of personal job status and pride in choosing to immigrate.
  • When asked to name the biggest challenge they faced as women immigrants in the United States, the majority did not cite economic difficulties. Rather, “helping my children achieve success” and “being able to hold my family together” were the top answers—underscoring the importance of family in understanding the motivations and aspirations of this new wave of women immigrants.

Another interesting finding is that women are the main drivers in their families to seek citizenship. Women from Latin America were especially intent on becoming US citizens.
When asked “What is the main reason that you plan to become a citizen of the United States?,” the majority of Vietnamese, Chinese, Arabic, Asian Indian and Korean said it was “To be able to live in US for the rest of my life.”
Twenty-four percent of Filipinos said it was “To be able to vote in American elections” and 27 percent of Latin American immigrants said it was “To make sure I’m never separated from my children.”
It is a sad commentary on the American immigration system for it to be known as an instrument that operates, without discretion, in separating children from their parents.

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Comment(3)

  • Avatar
    cookie
    May 15, 2009 at 10:55 am

    1. There is no discrimination against “immigrants” female or male. Let’s not confuse them with illegals, ok?
    2. Those in our country illegally that don’t have health insurance are driving up costs for us citizens.
    3. I fail to understand why these skilled females would migrate to the U.S. to take low paying jobs. How is that helping their families? Can’t they find gainful employment in their own countries will all these skills?
    4. I suspect that these females are really illegals and the lines are being blurred again. Their children can’t acheive success in their own countries? If not, they should change their own governments or come with their children legally. If it isn’t possbile because our quotas have already been filled, they still don’t have the right to crash our gates anyway.
    5. The U.S. as any other country has the right to enforce its immigration laws. The “immigrants” already know this ahead of time, so if they get seperated from their kids it is their own fault because of their actions. They can always take their kids back to their homeland with them. Even during the raids, females were allowed to be set free to care for their children at home. This is just smoke and mirrors to illicit unwarranted sympathy for law breakers.

  • Avatar
    MaryElizabeth
    May 20, 2009 at 1:32 am

    A 2008 Report by the ACLU states: MYTH: Immigrants are a drain on social services. FACT: Several studies, including reports by the Urban Institute and the Cato Institute, have concluded that immigrants pay significantly more in taxes than they cost in services. Yet immigrants access to basic social and government services has been curtailed. In 1996,President Clinton signed into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Reconciliation Opportunity Act, which took a wide range of federal benefits away from immigrants including food stamps and Supplemental Security Income. (SSI benefits were later restored, but only for immigrants who entered the country before August 22, 1996 – the day the law went into effect.) The act prevents most legal immigrants from receiving federal welfare benefits during their first five years of residency and restricts documented immigrants eligibility for certain benefits, despite the fact that Social Security and income taxes are withheld from their paychecks.

  • Avatar
    Liquidmicro
    May 20, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Read the report Mary, it only states on Federal Services, not services at the State levels. Each individual State has its own laws in regards to receiving benefits. In 1996,President Clinton signed into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Reconciliation Opportunity Act, which took a wide range of federal benefits away from immigrants including food stamps and Supplemental Security Income.
    The act prevents most legal immigrants from receiving federal welfare benefits during their first five years of residency and restricts documented immigrants eligibility for certain benefits, despite the fact that Social Security and income taxes are withheld from their paychecks.
    It is the local Governments, State level and lower where the costs far out way their input.

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