September 12, 2013
At this moment, over 100 women are being arrested outside of the House of Representatives as part of an effort to raise awareness about the particular challenges women face when they move to the United States. As pointed out in an editorial (very much worth reading in full) by Ai-jen Poo (Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance) and Terry O’Neill, (President of the National Organization for Women) women make up 51% of immigrants to the United States, but receive only 28% of work visas.
This is largely due to the fact that the dependent H-4 visas given to spouses and children of H-1B visa holders do not grant work authorization under any circumstances. As a result, the gender imbalances of other countries’ workforces follow women to America, preventing them from taking part the nearly even gender divide of our domestic labor market. From the editorial:
“This not only prevents many women from contributing their considerable talents and skills, it makes their immigration status entirely dependent on another person, creating a situation primed for abuse. An immigrant woman in an abusive relationship may not report her spouse to authorities or seek help for fear that she will lose her ability to remain in the country.”
The immigration reform bill that has passed the Senate would go some way towards addressing this problem, granting work authorization to H-4 visa holders. But it could go further still, by ensuring that more primary work visas are granted in fields dominated by women, such as domestic work and nursing.
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