Current signals indicate that immigration reform is poised to re-emerge as a major concern for lawmakers and the public. This Women’s eNews series ensures that the voices of immigrant women and their advocates will be heard, with special concern for undocumented female immigrants in the United States.
Female immigrants face all the issues that confront male immigrants, including low wages, ethnic hatred and hazardous working conditions. Women are, however, also confronted by additional conditions because of their gender. Here are some examples:
Female immigrants are especially vulnerable to being battered, either by a spouse, a partner or an employer, the Family Violence Prevention Fund reports. Women who worked at a meatpacking plant raided last year in Pottsville, Iowa, reported being locked in the plant for work shifts that had no defined end. They often worked from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., and were required to tolerate sexual demands throughout the shift.
Battered immigrant women who flee their abusers may not have access to bilingual support services, financial assistance or food, the Family Violence Prevention Fund reports.
The vast majority of people trafficked into the United States are women, many destined for prostitution and all for some form of human bondage. The women, when they come to attention of local authorities, often face criminal prosecution and deportation, which deters others from seeking assistance, according to Legal Momentum.
More and more immigrant women leave children behind in their home countries, forcing them to live torn between the need to provide for their family economically or emotionally, according to Legal Momentum.
Ten percent of migrants being held in detention are now female, and that percentage is rising, Human Rights Watch reports. The medical care provided to female detainees–related to their reproductive health–is dangerously inadequate and fails to live up to international standards, according to the group’s March 2009 findings.
Immigrant women, after a short stay in the United States, quickly begin to experience higher maternal death rates and low birth weight and premature infants than white women, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation reports.
Battered and trafficked women face a bewildering series of special visas and residency rules: the U Visa, Violence Against Women Act petitions and female genital mutilation asylum petitions, Legal Momentum reports. Much progress has been made since the Obama administration began to address the lengthy delays in implementation, fee waivers have been approved and long-awaited regulations issued. However, much more remains to be done, including informing and training grassroots advocates how to assist their clients in applying for visas and waivers under the new rules.
Immigrant women are the backbone of the United States’ informal and formal child care system. Many are losing their jobs, whiles others are being asked to care for additional children at the same pay, according to news accounts and advocates.