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Women Immigrants Key to Family Unity


Wednesday, June 17, 2009
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ATLANTA, Ga. – Women immigrants must overcome formidable barriers when
they first come to the United States, but their determination to hold
their families together helps them overcome many of those obstacles.

Those are among the findings of a recent New America
Media-commissioned national survey that pollster Sergio Bendixen shared
with a tightly packed gathering here at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on June
5 at a forum, “Women in Ethnic Media Breakfast: Women Changing the Face
of Immigration and Journalism.”

NAM chief of staff Odette Keeley, who immigrated from the Philippines
nine years ago, said women are redefining themselves both in the home
and the workplace.

Meredith Greene Megaw, communications director at the Committee to
Protect Journalists, a press freedom advocacy group, talked about her
organization’s efforts to shine the spotlight on the two North Korean
journalists and the Iranian American journalist, Roxanna Saberi, all of
whom were arrested while in pursuit of stories.

The threats to women journalists are not much different than those
faced by their male counterparts, Megaw noted, except that women
journalists also face cultural taboos, as well as the danger of being
sexually assaulted and threatened.

Those risks have forced many of them to switch to other forms of
media like the radio and the Internet, where they can maintain some
amount of anonymity while still practicing their trade, Megaw said.

Bendixen said that one of the greatest challenges new immigrant
women initially face is language. It is even more challenging if they
come from a certain socio-economic status. Many have little or no
access to health care. And to top it all, most of them face gender
discrimination.

“But within 10 to 15 years after they come to United States, women shed
their submissiveness,” become more assertive and take on a new role:
family stewardship, Bendixen said. “Keeping their families together is
their number one goal,” and they will do whatever it takes to ensure
that.

One of the first things they do in their new role in their family is to urge their spouses to seek citizenship.

“What could be more American than that?” Bendixen said.

Women who were forced to leave their children behind in their homeland
when they migrated to the United States generally succeed in bringing
their children over within five years, the poll shows. Those who face
deportation, take their children back with them.

Of the 90 percent of the women immigrants interviewed, 30 percent were
undocumented. Nearly all the women interviewed said that their families
were intact, their husbands live with them and their children were
either born here, or live with them in the United States.

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New America Media is the country's first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 2000 ethnic news organizations.

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