United States Senators Mazie K. Hirono and Patty Murray joined their colleagues Lisa Murkowski, Barbara Boxer, Kirsten Gillibrand, Maria Cantwell, Debbie Stabenow, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren ,Tammy Baldwin, Barbara Mikulski, Mary Landrieu and Jeanne Shaheen to introduce legislation that would make the Senate's immigration bill fairer to women. By shifting the emphasis from a family-based legal immigration system to an employment-based green card system, the immigration bill in its current form clearly, if inadvertently, disadvantages women who are trying to immigrate to the United States. The Hirono-Murray-Murkowski measure would give women greater opportunity to access the new economic immigration system in the bill.
The new merit-based point system for employment green cards will significantly disadvantage women who want to come to this country, particularly unmarried women. Many women in other countries do not have the same educational or career advancement opportunities available to men. This new merit-based system will prioritize green cards for immigrants with high levels of education or experience. By favoring these immigrants, the bill in effect cements into U.S. immigration law unfairness women face across the globe.
Approximately 70% of immigrant women come to this country through the family-based system. In the current immigration system, employment-based visas favor men over women by nearly a four to one margin as they place a premium on male-dominated fields like engineering and computer science.
The Hirono-Murray-Murkowski amendment would establish a category in the merit-based point system that would provide a fair opportunity for women to compete for merit-based green cards. Complementary to the high-skilled Tier 1 and the lower-skilled Tier 2, the new Tier 3 would include professions commonly held by women so as not to limit women's opportunities for economic-focused immigration. This system would provide 30,000 Tier 3 visas and would not reduce the visas available in the other merit-based tiers.
This third tier would place greater importance in the system on occupations that women in foreign countries are more likely to fill. These professions include home health care workers, health services occupations and teachers -- sectors where America faces a shortage of workers.
Watch Hirono's remarks on the Senate floor in support of this measure: http://youtu.be/oz2CmvAKXvg
"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."
"This amendment is about leveling the playing field for women in a green card system that is currently weighted to benefit men," said Senator Murray. "We are a nation of opportunity and as such we must have an immigration system that does not reward the unfairness women face in many areas of the globe. This bill will add an additional category to the merit-based immigrations system to recognize the skills many women bring to jobs. This is yet another issue that the women of the Senate are joining together - across party lines on - to enact real change on for other women."
"While I agree with the bipartisan immigration reform bill's goal to weigh the process towards high-priority occupations, it's clear that we must widen the lens of what we consider "high priority,'" said Senator Murkowski. "Our technical positions are critical to America's industrial potential, but this legislation would also address our nation's health-care position shortage at a time when it's an exploding field that touches nearly everyone's life on a personal level."
"Immigrant women are vital to our communities and our economy," Senator Boxer said. "This amendment will help ensure that they have a fighting chance to make their contribution to our country."
"The key to a growing economy and a thriving middle class is women," Senator Gillibrand said. "Immigration reform can strengthen our economy and honor a founding tradition that as a nation, we gain strength through our diversity. Our strong, bipartisan amendment makes sure we allow greater access for women to enter this country, and have the opportunity to work hard and pursue the American Dream."
"Women play a critical role in our economy," said Senator Maria Cantwell. "This amendment ensures that women have an equal opportunity to obtain employment visas by recognizing professions historically held by women. This will support fairness toward women in the immigration system and our entire economy."
"This amendment is critical to ensuring that we do not write discrimination into our immigration laws," said Senator Stabenow. "At a time when so many families are being pulled apart by our current immigration policy, we should be making it easier for families who want to become citizens to stay together."
"This effort to strengthen immigration reform will help even the playing field by providing a fair opportunity for women to compete for merit-based green cards. I am proud to join a bipartisan group of my Senate colleagues to advance this measure because it will help ensure women have a fair shot at pursuing citizenship and the American dream," said Senator Baldwin.
"Women make this country run -- we are business leaders, entrepreneurs, politicians, mothers and more," said Senator Mikulski, Dean of the Senate women. "This amendment will ensure that women seeking a better life and seeking the American dream aren't discriminated against because they don't have the same skillset as men."