Skip to content

Hirono seeks fair deal for immigrant women

As Congress works to frame a sweeping immigration reform deal, U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono and 12 other female senators Thursday introduced an amendment they say would treat women more fairly as they seek to come to the U.S.

The immigration bill as it stands proposes a new merit-based point system based on employment in two skills categories. The first tier would include higher-skilled workers, such as engineers and computer scientists; the second would include lower-skilled workers who typically take blue-collar jobs. Those trying to emigrate to the U.S. could compete for green cards by accruing points.

Hirono and others backing the amendment contend those categories would favor men over women by a 4-to-1 margin because many women abroad don’t have the same educational or career opportunities. They also say the bill would limit the current family-based immigration system which, they say, is how 70 percent of immigrant women legally arrive in this country.

The Hirono-Murray amendment, named for lead sponsors Hirono and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., would create a third work category, adding 30,000 visas for jobs typically filled abroad by women, such as home health care workers and teachers. 

The issue is personal for Hirono, the first woman born in Asia to serve in the Senate. She was born in Fuku­shima, Japan, and moved to Hawaii with her mother in 1955. She easily won election in November after moving from the U.S. House.

“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 wasn’t able to take on that courageous journey,” Hirono said Thursday on the Senate floor. “I want women like her … to be able to build a better life for themselves here.”

Whether Hirono’s amendment receives a Senate floor vote, officials say, largely depends on the so-called “Gang of Eight” — a bipartisan Senate group that’s largely driving the reform compromise.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Demo­crat, aims to have a vote on the overall reform package by the end of next week, they say.

Hirono had also expressed her concerns Tuesday on the Senate floor that the immigration bill would be unfair to women.

One Republican, Alaska Sen. Lisa Mur­kow­ski, joined the group of Demo­cratic senators to co-sponsor the amendment.

Read the entire piece here: