The ‘American Dream Tax’ and the Quiet Suffering of Immigrant Wives


The sexist nature of immigration regulation locations immigrant girls on ‘dependent visas’ that rob them of the rights that American girls have had for many years and allow home abuse.

The staticky sound of hate by a landline, shards of damaged glass on the pavement, jagged Camry home windows gleaming vibrant below the cruel solar: That is how Hasan Minhaj describes the “American dream tax.” The hate crime his family experienced within the wake of Sept. 11 is a testomony to the truth that becoming American comes at a steep value. 

However whereas the violence and stereotypes all immigrants face have change into more and more well-documented in recent times, we’ve got ignored the truth that this subject is closely gendered. The worth paid by immigrant girls is way steeper. The American immigration system is plagued by systemic gender inequality—amongst its many different faults—and reform is lengthy overdue. 

The passage of civil rights laws all through the previous few many years has eased sex-based employment discrimination. American girls at the moment can discover the work they want and achieve financial independence. But with out their husband’s consent, it’s almost impossible for ladies on some visas to acquire the work authorization required to discover a job legally.

With out work authorization, these girls are disadvantaged of Social Safety numbers, making it way more troublesome to open financial institution accounts, construct credit score historical past, and even get driver’s licenses. The restriction of those elementary freedoms result in barriers to autonomy that everlasting residents and residents don’t face. 

The very existence of some girls in america is totally dependent on their husband. Upon divorce or the demise of their partner, they are going to discover themselves deported

The foundation trigger of those points is embedded into U.S. immigration regulation: the distinction between main and dependent visa holders. Like lots of the different failings in U.S. laws and coverage, the text of the law seems to be gender-neutral on the floor. The outcome is something however equal.

Data from the USCIS reveals {that a} staggering 93 % of the 136,393 H-4 visa holders are girls. The H-4 dependent visa is meant for spouses and children, and serves because the counterpart to the H-1B main visa. For the reason that majority of dependent visa holders are girls, it follows that girls disproportionately suffer from the discrimination leveled at dependent visa holders. 

Though there’s a lack of knowledge illustrating the gender disparities for much less widespread visas, there’s good cause to consider similar inequities exist for different employment based mostly visas. Karen Panetta, a professor of laptop engineering from Tufts College, explained that potential employers of high-skilled immigrant staff—largely these within the STEM sector—are inclined to favor males. And a job supply from a keen employer is the trail in direction of main visa holder standing. This bias in direction of males when handing out job provides is a key cause behind the stark gender divide.

Moreover, gender norms from the international locations immigrants come from can form the roles that family members assume upon coming to the U.S. Immigrants more and more hail from countries which have an uneven gender break up in labor pressure participation, with decrease charges of girls that work. Males are assumed to be the rightful breadwinners. So, relating to deciding which partner’s profession to sacrifice, the lady is first on the chopping block.

But when these underlying causes explain a part of the inequality immigrant women expertise, U.S. immigration regulation actively aids and abets this injustice. Dependent immigrants who should not but eligible to use for a inexperienced card are banned from working completely. Others are forced to apply for an Employment Authorization Doc(EAD), a course of that takes as much as a 12 months, prices 410 {dollars}, and requires access to documents that main visa holders—their partner—typically gatekeep. It’s not stunning the H-4 dependent visa has earned itself the nickname of the “involuntary housewife visa.”

Certainly, the way forward for dependent visa holders is nearly fully reliant on whether or not or not they keep married. Within the eyes of U.S. immigration regulation, spouses are basically equivalent to children. These spouses have about as a lot management over their authorized standing within the nation as a 12-year-old. Their life is one in every of borrowed legality, their standing one thing that can be revoked and manipulated by the first visa holder. 

These situations often breed violence and abuse inside households, together with each bodily and emotional abuse. But once more, the dependent standing of those girls create skewed energy dynamics and render them unable to talk out. There’s a extreme lack of data on the intimate associate violence skilled by immigrant girls, however each Asian American domestic violence organizations and Asian women themselves have repeatedly cited immigration restrictions as a key contributor to the violence of their neighborhood. 

By means of my previous expertise working with dependent visa holders, I do know that these points skilled by girls should not particular person; they’re systemic and widespread. The careless guidelines crafted by legislators many years in the past have birthed indignities that persist at the moment. 

The subsequent time complete immigration reform is handed (if there’s a subsequent time), we should take away the obstacles to employment and an impartial existence at present holding these girls down. Immigrant girls are paying greater than their justifiable share of the “American dream tax.”

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