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Report: Path to Legal Status Harder For Immigrant Women

A new report documents the damage done by the gender discrimination that it suggests runs rampant in immigration laws.

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Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) is a member of the group of cosponsors known as the "Gang of Eight," comprising four Republicans and four Democrats. In a statement Tuesday, Bennet called the Senate vote to begin debate on the bill "a golden opportunity to rise above politics and pass a commonsense, bipartisan bill that will fix a broken immigration system that is bad for our families and bad for our economy."

The IPC report indeed found that the current system is bad for families. Reuniting families separated by migration is the most common route for women to immigrate legally to the United States, but according to Menjivar and Salcido, it is also the most fraught with gender bias. They say cultural practices in Mexico and Central America, along with stereotypes in the United States, assume men to be breadwinners and household heads, while women are expected to be caretakers and homemakers. "For this reason, many women came to rely on male relatives to petition for them in the legalization process. Thus, while family reunification constitutes only one of several paths to legalization, it is one of the greatest promoters of the increase in female immigration, which in turn cements the image of women as 'dependents,' " they wrote.

Menjivar told Truthout she does not anticipate that the final immigration package, whatever form it takes, will address the inequalities highlighted in her report, and it does appear lawmakers have other agendas. In a statement on Tuesday, another Gang of Eight member, GOP Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) was focused on enforcement, saying, "At the end of the day, I think it's all going to hinge on whether we can secure the border and have real security measures." 

Alissa Bohling is an assistant editor at Truthout.

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