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Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act--Continued--

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. HIRONO. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

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Ms. HIRONO. Madam President, I believe we must fix the immigration bill to make it fairer for women. The bill proposes a new merit-based point system for allocating green cards to future immigrants. Simply put, the point system makes it harder for women than for men to come to this country. The theory behind the merit system is that we should give immigration preferences to people who hold advanced degrees or work in high-skilled jobs. This idea ignores the discrimination women endure in other countries.

Too many women overseas do not have the same educational or career
advancement opportunities available to men in those countries. In practice, the bill's new point system takes that inequitable treatment abroad and cements it into our immigration laws. This bill reduces the opportunities for immigrants to come under the family-based green card system.

Currently, approximately 70 percent of immigrant women come to this country through the family-based system. This legislation increases the amount of employment-based visas. This bill basically moves us away from the family-based system and into economic considerations. There is nothing wrong with that, but we should be fair to women while we are doing it. The immigration avenues favor men over women by nearly a 4-to-1 margin.

Using the past as our guide, it is easy to see how the new merit-based system, with heavy emphasis on factors such as education and experience, will disadvantage women who apply for green card status. We all want a stronger economy, but we should not sacrifice the hard-won victories of the women's equality movement to get it. Ensuring that women have an equal opportunity to come here is not an abstract policy cause to me.

When I was a young girl, my mother brought my brothers and me to this country in order to escape an abusive marriage. My life would be completely different if my mother was not able to take on that courageous journey. I want women similar to her--women who don't have the opportunities to succeed in their own countries--to be able to build a better life for themselves here. These disparities in the immigration bill are fixable.

Later this week a number of my female Senate colleagues and I will introduce a proposal that will address the disparities in the new merit-based system. Let's improve immigration reform to make this bill better for women who deserve a fair shake in our green card system.

I yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum.

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