Hirono’s Immigration Bill Amendment Seeks to Level Inequities for Women

An amendment to the Senate immigration reform proposal introduced today by Sen. Mazie Hirono practices the art of what’s possible.

Hirono, as well as immigrant groups, have had problems with a proposal in the overall reform package being debated on the Senate floor this week for eventually doing away with letting siblings and adult married children of U.S. residents being able to enter the country based solely on their family ties. 

Instead future immigration would be based on a merit system, in which family relationships are a factor but considers such other factors as education and work experience.

Having had attempts to do away with that aspect of immigration reform rejected in the judiciary committee, Hirono’s amendment seeks to lessen the impact. Hirono argued that the change would disproportionately affect women, who in many countries are discriminated from having educational and job opportunities, and thus would be discriminated again in terms of being able to immigrate.

Her amendment would create a new category on top of those already in the package allowing a certain number of high-skill and low-skilled workers to enter each year. The amendment would also create a new  category allowing people to immigrate from nursing, teaching and other professions with large numbers of women — thereby giving a women a way of being able to immigrate even if their opportunities to do so under by being a sister or daughter is tightened.

The amendment is also significant in reflecting how having failed to gain traction as an immigrant issue, it is taking on new steam as a woman’s issue. iHirono’s measure tries to make changes by framing it as a woman’s issue. It is co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of 13 women senators, more than half of the historic number of senators in thi Congress.

“My colleagues and I understand that too many women in other countries don’t have the same educational or career advancement opportunities available to men,” said Senator Hirono. “We should not cement those inequalities into our immigration laws. Our measure would help make the immigration bill fairer for women and give women across the globe more opportunities to compete for green cards in the new merit-based system.”


Kery Murakami

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