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Christopher Moore
Communications Associate

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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. Does the story being told help or hinder the mobilization of public opinion behind policies that pave the way for integration of immigrant women into American society?

You can also review the findings at the following link:

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. Almost without exception, the articles in the scan tell the dark side of the immigrant woman’s experience. 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.

“Women often find themselves at the intersection of matters related to work, immigration status, family, and gender, 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. “To ensure that women’s concerns are included in conversations around immigration, we need to know how current discourse treats immigrant women, and how we can leverage existing opportunities, improve coverage, and shape discussions.”

The Opportunity Agenda found:

  • The dominant narrative in mainstream media portrays immigrant women as victims who are powerless to find safety and security for themselves and their families 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 immigrant women 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 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 this important constituency into U.S. society.

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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.