Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Immigration as a Women's Issue

Speaker Boehner recently made a statement that has dashed the hope of many who want to see immigration reform happen this year. He told reporters that House Republicans "have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill." Despite having committed to making immigration reform a reality, the Speaker has made it clear that he will use his own approach.

This is unfortunate for a couple of reasons. First of all, Senate Democrats made major concessions to Republicans in their immigration bill in order to garner enough support to pressure the Speaker to take up the Senate bill in the House. It is clear now that those concessions have yielded no benefits. Secondly, I think House Republicans are missing out on a major opportunity to combat accusations that they're the "anti-women" party without dealing with touchier subjects like abortion and birth control.

It's not immediately obvious, but immigration reform has major implications for women. Part of the reform included in the Senate immigration package was a merit-based points system for new immigrants seeking Legal Permanent Resident status. The purpose of this system is to allow high- and low- skilled workers to live and work in the US. But as some Senators (particularly women) pointed out this summer, this system strongly disadvantages women from countries where women do not have access to high-skilled jobs. Currently, most female legal immigrants come via the family immigration system, as wives, siblings, mothers, etc. But as the bill also seeks to move away from family-based immigration, women are at a serious disadvantage.

If Speaker Boehner would agree to pass comprehensive immigration reform and go to conference with the Senate, he would have the opportunity to negotiate for stronger border controls or whatever it is that House Republicans would like to see from immigration reform. If he were willing to make concessions on relatively less controversial issues, like improving female immigrants' access to the merit-based immigration system, House Republicans might be better positioned in conference negotiations. Not to mention the fact that they could champion a women's issue without riling up their base or dividing the party.


  1. Nice post, I was unaware of this gender aspect of immigration. Unfortunately, that could be the reason why Republicans won't jump at this opportunity to pass the bill. Like myself, I don't think many voters are aware of this side of immigration reform, and as a result, Republicans would need to embark on an extensive and expensive advertising campaign to help the public connect the dots that Republicans voting on something that helped women. I don't think such a campaign would necessarily fail, but it may not be worth it on a money spent vs. votes gained measure, as I think few pro-women voters would change their vote based on this one action. Of course, I could be wrong on both points: maybe I'm just woefully ignorant of this side of immigration reform and Republican action on it would gain them major points in pro-women's groups. Unfortunately, though, I don't think this is the case.

  2. I definitely see the advantages in championing a women's issue for the Republicans in this case. I agree with Chris that concessions on immigration issues would not be necessary seen as reform on women's issues, but would appear to Republican constituents that Republican members of Congress are negotiation on a hot-button issue (that voters may not want them to be moderate on, at all). However, after the gridlock of the government shutdown, passing immigration reform legislation could have also been a good chance for Republicans to seemingly compromise and work with Democrats to find some middle ground.