Immigration reform that focuses on a pathway to citizenship or permanent residency instead of legal status could help improve economic security for women in the United States. Women immigrants who are undocumented, have spouse visas or temporary work visas are often subjected to low wages and poor working conditions. Reform could boost women’s incomes by an average of 17.1 percent.
Restrictions from B-1 Visa
Immigrant women more than men are brought into the United States to work in private homes to provide housekeeping or care services to meet the increased demand for caregivers. The temporary B-1 visa that is secured basically ties the woman to the employer. But not all employers are benevolent, the work may be subject to human trafficking, long hours, wage abuse, violence and poor working conditions.
Because these women are tied to their employees, they can continue to be underpaid and vulnerable to their employers’ abuse. They cannot leave their jobs for better opportunities because they do not have legal status. Having a pathway to citizenship could enable the security of immigrant women and improve their collective economic states.
The Center for American Progress states that a pathway to citizenship, instead of legal status could boost the incomes of immigrants. An increase in the number of visas along with the ability for job mobility is recommended by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. This would help accommodate the expected demand for home care workers as the elderly population in the United States continues to grow.
Removing Barriers Women Migrants Face
Giving preference for citizenship to female migrants from countries that are gender-unequal can benefit both women and economies. Countries that discriminate and restrict the freedom of women tend to have lower numbers of women immigrating. But those who do immigrate tend to seek out countries that are more gender-equal.
While male immigrants typically earn more than women, the women are more likely to spend their income on their families back home and show more stability. As breadwinners, women immigrating from gender-unequal countries have a positive effect on reversing their countries’ gender norms to move toward equality that is beneficial to all. But there is an added benefit for removing barriers to citizenship for women immigrants. Women in gender-unequal countries who achieve the same educational or professional success as men in their home countries, tend to outperform their male counterparts. And this can benefit American employers seeking skilled workers.