#FemTrending: Gender Inequality & Immigration

#FemTrending is a blog series with a feminist kick that wades into the waters of things "trending" in popular culture and politics. Written by GS&NS Digital Content Coordinator, Hailie Johnson-Waskow.

Potentially the largest issue of the 2016 presidential election is immigration; from “let’s build a wall” to mass deportation to comprehensive immigration reform. It is decidedly a major factor in what will occur in the 2016 election.

According to an article from the Center for American Progress, “All too often…media portrayals of immigrants feature a single Hispanic male without status.” However, women make up over 51% of immigrants in the United States, this is actually higher than it is anywhere else globally.  The unfortunate reality for immigrant women is that they are subject to massive gender inequalities that hide under the guise of legal neutrality. 

Women who want to apply for employment-based visas must often rely on male relatives to petition for them because their jobs, which are frequently things like household cleaning and watching children,  are often not considered “high demand” jobs. Men statistically have an easier and quicker time when attempting to gain legal status through family reunification because they are often viewed as the head of households. Women may also attempt to seek a visa through political asylum but often struggle to convince that they need protection when they have engaged in “male-defined activities” like guerrilla army participation. 

And, most horrifically, though the Violence Against Women Act was created for immigrant women who experience domestic violence, it is largely ineffective. For example, the act requires a woman provide evidence that they live with their abuser but this is often impossible for a woman if the man is the owner of the home and the bills are all under his name. 

The stark reality is that women have been excluded from the conversation about immigration. And this has spilled over into disregarding women in legislation related to immigration. There must be a massive spotlighting of the gender inequality present in not only immigration legislation but also our discursive representations of immigration. This way we can create an effective, humanizing immigration systems for all bodies. 

Hailie Johnson-Waskow