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Trump’s Immigration Plan Punishes Women Most

In this Aug. 16, 2013 photo, Leah Alvarez joins an immigration reform protest in Miami. (Photo: AP/J Pat Carter)

Donald Trump made a phony photo-op trip to Mexico City on Wednesday, where his Mexican “rapists, murderers, and drug dealers” miraculously morphed into “amazing people” who are “beyond reproach.” The Republican presidential candidate’s joint appearance with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto was mostly the usual cross-border palaver about cooperation and working together. Trump did claim he held firm on The Wall, but admitted they didn’t quite get around to a discussion of who was going to pay for it.

Then he flew back to Arizona, arguably America’s most anti-immigrant state, to lay out his new immigration plan. By the time he crossed the border back to the U.S., the wall was going to be paid for “100 percent” by Mexico, those “amazing people” had once again become “criminal illegal aliens,” and “extreme vetting” was back. Ditto local police becoming immigration enforcers, barring Muslims from some countries, and “ideological certification.” Same red-meat harsh substance as always. The only thing new was some highly scripted packaging.

All of Trump’s so-called immigration plans actually fail to address the issues for the majority of immigrants – women. That’s right: The face of the migrant in the United States is increasingly female. According to the Census Bureau, women now make up more than half of the immigrant population, and 100 immigrant women arrive in the United States for every 96 men.

The majority of women migrate to reunite with family, make a better life for their children, or escape violence in their home countries. But our current laws make it harder for them to come legally, and harder to become citizens when they do get here.



While in Mexico Trump mentioned in passing that people on both sides of the border need a raise. But he didn’t say how much, and you can bet it wouldn’t be enough to comply with one especially punishing Republican proposal in the last (failed) immigration bill. It would require migrants to maintain an income that is four times the federal poverty line for 10 years before they can apply for permanent residence. That’s over $90,000 a year for a family of four. Most folks born in the USA can’t do that, much less an immigrant woman working for minimum wage – or less.

And speaking of money, these women need an easier way to document earnings. Many work in the cash economy – jobs like housecleaning and child care. They don’t get pay stubs, so they can’t prove how much money they make, a requirement for any path to citizenship. Why not allow them to use sworn affidavits to prove employment?

Trump’s main message was deport, deport, deport (all 11 million in the country illegally would have to leave and then try to come back). In the past six years, 2.5 million people have already been deported, including thousands of mothers forced to leave their American-born children – U.S. citizens – to become wards of the government in foster care. Trump wants to add to that number by revoking birthright citizenship. Instead of criminalizing children for being born in the U.S. to undocumented mothers, real immigration reform would reunite families and give these moms a way to become legal residents.

The changes female immigrants need will remain a pipe dream if Trump is the next president. His latest bully-boy claims of new ideas for reform boil down to the same unworkable ideas he’s had all along – mass deportation on an unprecedented scale, amending the Constitution to take away citizenship for children born in the U.S., and the longest fence since the Great Wall of China.

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Martha Burk

Martha Burk

Martha Burk is a political psychologist, women's issues expert, and director of the Corporate Accountability Project for the National Council of Women's Organizations (NCWO) and the author of the book Your Voice, Your Vote. Follow Martha on Twitter @MarthaBurk.

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