In his 2018 State of the Union Address, President Trump announced major changes to U.S. immigration and refugee policy. Key among his proposals is tightening family reunification policies, which will directly influence gender inequity. Not only does our own history provide trenchant examples, but other countries’ policies and their implications can inform such changes. On this score, Germany, though its refugee policy is far more generous, is particularly helpful in considering the gender implications of immigration reform­­­­- a “what not to do,” as it were.

As the nation swings from one polarizing policy debate to another – from health care to taxes to immigration – the connections among these issues can get lost in the rhetoric. The common impacts of those three particular issues are, however, nowhere more visible than in Latina health care access and outcomes. We’re talking about millions of Americans: children, the elderly, low and middle income, citizen and noncitizen alike. Latinas, a sizeable demographic within each of these populations, are especially vulnerable because of the ways in which ethnicity, gender, income, documentation status, and age intersect. Latinas’ lives and livelihoods are on the line.

The #MeToo movement has been crucial in raising the profile of sexual harassment and violence through the voices of women from Hollywood to Congress, yet we have heard less about the experiences of women from other socioeconomic sectors – poor women, women of color, immigrant women. The U.S. does have limited policies in place to protect some immigrant victims of sexual violence, but those systems need to be more accessible ­and to be made consistent across jurisdictions.

On January 5th, 2018, Secretary Ben Carson and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a delay of an Obama-era fair housing rule, the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) measure, until 2020. Instituted in 2015, the rule was meant to extend pieces of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) of 1968 that were never actualized—measures that call for communities to review and account for racially discriminatory housing policies or face sanctions such as the loss of community block grants and fair housing aid. Secretary Carson has called the AFFH “failed socialism” and “social engineering,” while U.S. Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) characterized its delay as an attack on “minorities, women, families with children, and persons with disabilities.”

In his State of the Union Address, President Trump continued to insist on building a $25 billion wall along the Mexico-U.S. border—a farcical waste of taxpayer money. Undocumented migration from Mexico to the U.S. essentially ended ten years ago; the total number of Mexican immigrants has stabilized at around 11.7 million persons, as the number of undocumented Mexican migrants declines. This is to say, since 2008, the net number of Mexicans (in any legal status) entering the U.S. has been zero or negative.The push for a border wall doubles-down on past failed policies and the particularly vulnerable population of women and children they created, yet no border wall can affect a migratory flow that has already gone negative.

Ryan Allen is an Associate Professor in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.  Professor Allen’s research focuses on community and economic development in immigrant communities in the United States. He brings to the Gender Policy Report a strong knowledge of federal immigration policy, a wealth of expertise in how immigrants adjust to life in the United States, and direct research experience with immigrant communities in the Twin Cities. His approach to research is informed by a cross-cutting understanding of how gender, immigrant status and other forms of inequality intersect. Allen’s most recent research has been with immigrants in the 1940s who were among the earliest public housing residents in the United States. He is also researching how legal status impinges upon rental affordability for unauthorized immigrants and engagement practices used by urban planners who work with immigrant communities. We look forward to Professor Allen’s contributions to the GPR’s Immigration and Refugees page.