Immigration's Female Face
July 15th, 2009
This post was filed by Jackie Pearce.
The face of immigration in America is changing, according to experts, advocates and media representatives who gathered at the Ford Foundation auditorium this afternoon. That face, they say, is a womanís.
The panel discussion focused on a poll recently released by New American Media, which looked at the problems and experiences of the often-silent female immigrant. Women now account for the majority of immigrants coming to the U.S. — 53 percent.
For the report, women from over 44 countries were questioned on issues of discrimination, healthcare access, language acquisition and other obstacles confronting them.
Many of the panelists said they expected the poll’s results to change the discussion surrounding immigration, creating a more personal look.
“They [lawmakers] are not used to thinking of immigrants as women,” said Angela Kelley, vice president for immigration policy and advocacy at the Center for American Progress.
She said the pollís results present the immigrant as a mother and the core of the family, as opposed to a figure on a chart. She thinks American women, in particular, will recognize “shared values,” helping to humanize the debate.
The poll found that immigrant women have been tremendously successful in keeping their families together, despite the challenging process of group relocation. According to the survey, 85 percent said all their children were in the U.S. with them, and the majority would take their children with them if deported.
However, despite their successes, the women face enormous obstacles. During their first year in the U.S., their incomes averaged $500 a month, and many were paid under the table or for temporary projects. As much as 30 percent have no form of health insurance and use the emergency room as their primary care.
According to Sergio Bendixen of the polling firm Bendixen & Associates, “keeping their kids healthy is something that weighs heavy on them.”
Bendixen also spoke about the results on questions related to discrimination. While the numbers of cases vary depending on ethnic group, he said, “They were unanimous in letting us know it has gotten worse.”
Kelley said the discrimination results partly from the political tactics of “separatism.” She said that certain lawmakers and pundits — ” Lou Dobbs with a big olí megaphone” — have people convinced that immigrants are inherently different than people born in the United States. “The beat of the drum that they are different than us has unleashed a real ugliness,” including an increase in hate crimes, Kelley said.
Despite some of the depressing statistics, Bendixen emphasized the role women play in the continuity of society and the importance of hearing their voices. “Itís about a timeless truth that women are the lynchpins of the family, of the community, of many nations,” he said.By Gail Robinson on July 15, 2009, 5:51 pm
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