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Christopher Moore
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THE OPPORTUNITY AGENDA ANALYZES THE INTERSECTION OF GENDER & IMMIGRATION IN MAINSTREAM MEDIA; CITES NEED FOR BETTER-BALANCED STORIES ON WOMEN & LGBT IMMIGRANTS

As the nation delves into a heated discourse on immigration policy reform at the federal level, new report finds that stories of immigrant women as contributors to society and agents of their own destiny are missing from mainstream media.

New York City, NY – In recognition of the ongoing debate on immigration policy reform with probable movement in President Obama’s second term, The Opportunity Agenda reviewed mainstream and niche media coverage and public opinion research to find the overarching story being told in mainstream media about immigrant women. The findings also inform about the representation of LGBT immigrants. Does the story being told help or hinder the mobilization of public opinion behind policies that pave the way for integration of women and LGBT immigrants into American society?

You can also review the findings at the following link: http://opportunityagenda.org/immigration_gender

The Opportunity Agenda’s mainstream media analysis, based on the content of articles in 20 national, regional, and local print outlets, exposes a disconnect between how immigrant women, especially undocumented women, are portrayed in the media, and how they themselves define their lives, priorities, and aspirations. LGBT immigrants were the focus of two articles in the scan. Almost without exception, the articles in the scan tell the dark side of the immigrant woman’s experience. The same holds true for the stories found on LGBT immigrants that highlighted attacks and exploitation.

Her role as the family steward and civic leader is missing from the dominant media narrative. Although many of the stories do place her in her family, it is usually in the context of impending family separation, not cohesiveness or leadership. In this narrative, instead of exercising stewardship, she is powerless to prevent her family’s dissolution (even though she struggles mightily to keep her family together). In her life outside of the family, she is almost always depicted as the victim of exploitation at the hands of employers, traffickers, and violent partners.

“LGBT immigrants often find themselves at the intersection of matters related to sexual orientation, gender, immigration status, and work, affected by each of these in ways that are often ignored in the policy arena,” said The Opportunity Agenda’s Director of Law and Advocacy, Juhu Thukral. “Based on the report’s findings we encourage more coverage of LGBT immigrant issues, including uplifting stories of achievement, integration, and contribution, not just stories of victimization.”

The Opportunity Agenda found:

  • The dominant narrative in mainstream media portrays women and LGBT immigrants as victims who are powerless to find safety and security for themselves because of public policies and private exploitation.
  • The depiction of immigrant women as helpless victims strengthens perceptions of otherness and dependency, and tends to reinforce the belief still held by some Americans that immigrants are a burden on our country.
  • At the same time, a majority of Americans continue to support policies that would provide a roadmap to citizenship for immigrants who are currently without documentation.
  • Media that reach women, progressives, and Millennials rarely report on women and LGBT immigrants, and their issues. This creates a lack of visibility among audiences important to the immigrants’ equal rights movement.

It is clear from this research that the American public supports some positive immigrant policies, they are not yet receiving a balanced picture of the lives, contributions, aspirations and challenges of LGBT immigrants and the 20 million women living in the United States who are foreign-born. Advocates, policymakers, journalists, and others can promote a more informed public discourse that builds support for policies that encourage the full integration of these important constituencies into U.S. society.

Follow The Opportunity Agenda on Twitter: twitter.com/oppagenda to receive ongoing highlights from the report and information about the upcoming webinar.

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About The Opportunity Agenda: Launched in 2004 with the mission of building the national will to expand opportunity in America. Focused on moving hearts, minds, and policy over time, the organization works with social justice groups, leaders, and movements to advance solutions that expand opportunity for everyone. Through active partnerships, The Opportunity Agenda synthesizes and translates research on barriers to opportunity and corresponding solutions; uses communications and media to understand and influence public opinion; and identifies and advocates for policies that improve people’s lives.