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The Intersection of Feminism and Immigration Law

As different as they may seem, immigration can often be correlated with feminism in a few key ways. It has been statistically shown that the United States (US) welcomes a greater percentage of female immigrants than males, however, more than half of these women were not working when they entered the country. Even women who had previously received university degrees from their country of origin who might not have had a job when they arrived cannot obtain one now. Often, their husbands were working at the time meaning while they entered on H1-B visas, the women received H-4 visas, which are for family members of people with visas like the H1-B. Take Bay Area Immigrant Mamtha Kashyap for example. Her visa was entirely dependent on her husband’s meaning that now she has no legal right to work, even though she has a university degree in computer engineering. Instead of being able to provide for her family with the education she worked hard to receive, she can only spend her time crocheting and watching TV. This brings up the debate about the rights that wives of H1-B immigrants receive.

The current immigration system in the US is highly discriminatory against women, but the reason these women are not offered jobs goes deeper than that. In their own home countries, they are discriminated against because of their gender and are not offered educational opportunities and jobs. This means they do not have much experience on their resume which disincentivizes companies in the US from hiring them. That, in combination with the fact that women are already less likely to be hired in the US, makes it almost impossible for them to receive a job.

Additionally, when women are entirely dependent on their husbands to even have a right to stay in the country they are immigrating to, it opens the door up to exploitation and abuse. These women cannot leave their husbands without being sent back to their home country which gives the husbands an immense amount of power over them, and the ability to treat them however they want with little to no consequences.

Unfortunately, this is not just an issue in the US. Immigrants in Europe face extreme xenophobia as well, as many polls have shown that the majority of European citizens believe their country has too many immigrants already. However, “domestic work” is also a huge necessity in these countries, and those are often positions that immigrant women take up as it is a social norm that these things are meant to be done by women. The problem here is that these immigrants are not in any position to advocate for themselves in terms of higher wages and better working conditions due to discrimination from their employers. The relationship an immigrant woman has with her employer is similar to that of a woman who depends on her working husband to maintain her visa. They are subject to abuse and exploitation just because they are scared of losing their immigration status if they call the police or ask for help with the abuse.

While all immigrants are struggling with issues they have to face due to bias against them in society, it is especially pressing to look at the downfalls of immigration law from the perspective of women. Protecting these women from the abuse they receive would be a step in the right direction, and a path to a better future for all people.

Activists protest for female immigrant rights, Photo creds: Feminist Campus



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