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  HOME | World (Click here for more)

Study: Women Are New Face of Migration to U.S.

CHICAGO – Women represent the new face of emigration to the United States, overcoming risks and obstacles to join family members already in the country and ensure better opportunities for themselves and their loved ones, a new study revealed.

The story of migration has ceased to be “a masculine epic” and women are now making their way across the border as much as men are, according to the study “Women Immigrants: Stewards of the 21st Century Family,” discussed Thursday during a press conference at the Chicago office of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

Pollster and analyst Sergio Bendixen, whose firm prepared the study for New America Media, said women do not emigrate as lone individuals, as men did prior to the first half of the 20th century. They instead do so as members – or even heads – of a family who are determined to keep that social unit intact.

At present, more than half of the migrants who enter the United States are women and worldwide females account for more than 50 percent of the total migrant population, according to the study, which was based on surveys last year of 1,002 female immigrants from Latin American, Asian, African, and Arab countries.

Bendixen said at the discussion in Chicago that the figures unveiled in the study – official presented on Monday – could be useful in the debate on U.S. immigration reform because they “soften the image of the immigrant.”

More and more women are deciding to cross oceans and borders, “either to join the male once he has settled or to move (and thereby) preserve the entire family as a unit,” the study said, adding that “when women come to America, they come as wives and as mothers.”

In 2007, there were 18.9 million immigrant women – most of them ranging in age from 35 to 49 – in the United States, 53 percent of whom were of Latin American origin.

The study added that 65 percent of Latin American female migrants were born in Mexico, 12 percent in Central America and 10 percent in Cuba.

Around 90 percent of the immigrant women polled, 30 percent of whom are undocumented, said their families remain intact and that their children were born in the United States or joined them in that country.

“The accomplishment has required women immigrants to overcome formidable barriers – the language barrier (over 60 percent of Latin American, Vietnamese, Korean, and Chinese immigrant women still say they have not mastered the English language), anti-immigrant discrimination, lack of health care, and low-paying jobs well below the status of professional jobs many of them held in home countries,” the study said.

It added that women often radically alter their roles, assuming leadership in the home and sharing decisions about household finances and family planning with their husbands.

Women are also “the main drivers in their families when it comes to seeking citizenship,” citing “securing family stability” as the number one reason for obtaining that status and voting in elections as secondary concern.

The report also stressed the stability of immigrant families, noting that “at a moment when more than one-third of families in the United States are single parent headed households, 90 percent of (immigrant women) are raising their children in intact marriages.”

“The face of the immigrant is that of a mother,” who has come to the United States not in search of wealth but because they “saw the United States as a place to build better futures for their children, and to make permanent homes for their families,” the study said.

The study was sponsored by New America Media, a coalition of more than 2,500 ethnic media outlets nationwide, and conducted by Bendixen & Associates, a public opinion research, management, and communications consulting firm based in Miami, Florida. EFE

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