Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Comprehensive immigration reform that includes a clear path to citizenship could drastically reduce violence against women and girls in the United States and across the world, according to a new policy brief released by the George Washington University Global Women’s Institute (GWI) and We Belong Together.
The first step in addressing the gaps in U.S. policies that lead to violence against women and girls is to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation that specifically addresses the issue of gender-based violence, the brief says. Roughly 51 percent of foreign-born individuals in the U.S. and 48 percent of refugees are women, yet only 27 percent of U.S. work visas are granted to women. Migrant women tend to work in service industries, which are not prioritized for visas. Without a visa, women are vulnerable, left open to exploitation from employers and their partners, and often without the means to assert their labor and civil rights. Immigration reform that adequately protects women will strengthen worker protections, no matter an individual’s immigration status.
Immigration reform must also include a clear path to citizenship, according to the brief. Research shows that when granted citizenship, women are more likely to remove themselves from abusive relationships that they previously felt trapped in due to the threat of deportation. Laws must promote immigrant integration into society and ensure that immigrant and refugee survivors of violence and trafficking are properly protected and have access to health and social services.
Comprehensive immigration reform must also reduce the backlog of immigration petitions and support alternatives to detention.
In addition to immigration reform, lawmakers should support policies that remove the causes of violence abroad, which will in turn reduce the need for women and girls to leave their home countries. If passed, the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) would advance this goal. IVAWA, which was recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, offers economic and education programs aimed at preventing violence and trafficking while also helping survivors. It would improve humanitarian assistance and provide support for in-country efforts to change attitudes surrounding violence against women. Policies such as IVAWA will not only help change institutional norms leading to the reduction of gender-based violence, but they will also help to reduce strains on the U.S. immigration system.
The Global Women’s Institute The Global Women’s Institute (GWI) at the George Washington University launched in 2012 as part of a university-wide initiative to advance gender equality through interdisciplinary research, education and civic engagement.
We Belong Together We Belong Together is an initiative of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, with the participation of women’s organizations, immigrant rights groups, children and families across the country.