On March 18, the State Judiciary Committee heard testimony arguing that the H-1B visa program for high-skilled workers is discriminating against women, according to The New York Times. During the 2011 fiscal year, the U.S. Office of Immigration Statistics recorded that 347,087 H-1B visa holders were men and 137,522 were women. This marks the first time in 2013 that lawmakers addressed the gender-inequality issue in the immigration system.
The hearing was devoted to issues that women face during the immigration process, family unification and ways to improve the integration of families and women into the immigration system. The largest imbalance was seen in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. According to Contra Costa Times, about 67,000 immigrant men and 39,000 immigrant women were granted green cards last year, a 63-37 percent split.
Karen Panetta, a Tufts University computer engineering professor who was testifying on behalf of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, said that companies prefer to hire men over women. In addition to the outdated immigration and visa policies, corporate hiring practices contribute to the issue.
Another major concern is the values of families and the ability to set roots in the country. Proponents believe that allowing individuals with U.S. citizenship to sponsor their extended families could help women and other immigrants become productive and integrated assets to society.
“Family immigration is critical to our economy, and we know that our communities and all Americans benefit when we’re able to provide immigrants with an opportunity to set roots,” Mee Moua, president of the Asian American Justice Center, said. “We know that siblings provide immigrants an immediate social support system, that is able to help them with child care or if they fall on hard times, or instances where they need some help to start a business.”