Increasing Pathways to Legal Status for Immigrant In-Home Care Workers

Immigration Reform: Institute for Women’s Policy Research

Increasing Pathways to Legal Status for Immigrant In-Home Care WorkersAt the end of a previous post urging more talk shows for anthropologists studying immigration, I considered that many anthropologists might be doing behind-the-scenes work, or work with policy implications which does not necessarily make a huge press splash. After posting that, Jane Henrici, an anthropologist working as Study Director for the Institute for Women’s Policy Research provided valuable insights. Many of the anthropologists and others working in such roles rarely will get a named role, instead working in collaborative efforts that get the name of the institution. Moreover, although they may be in the press, this is not something they necessarily seek to highlight, since press articles can also include framings that they would not be comfortable choosing. Nevertheless, their work has been vital to creating and sustaining a broader social movement that may (at long last) bring meaningful immigration reform.

Dr. Henrici kindly sent along recent press links featuring the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. With thanks, and with thanks for the work that goes into these efforts, here is a selection:

  • Immigrants Fill Healthcare Worker Shortage, U.S. News & World Report:

    Because of the projected future need of care workers, IWPR’s report puts forth four proposals that would help to keep immigrant care workers in the country, including providing a path to legalization for undocumented care workers, and implementing a provisional visa system that could help workers to transition to permanent visa status. “The wages for a range of reasons are kept low, and we do consider that a problem,” says Jane Henrici, study director at IWPR. “We’re concerned for the workers’ sake that they be able to subsist on those salaries.” Henrici says it’s important to understand how widespread the need could soon become: “We want to avoid exploitation. That needs to be the emphasis. We all need these workers,” she says.

  • America’s Fastest Growing Job Pays Poorly, CNN Money:

    A recent study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimates immigrants make up 28% of home health care workers, and of those, one in five are undocumented.

  • Immigration bill could force hard decisions for domestic workers, employers, Newsday:

    “It’s a complicated question,” said Jane Henrici, study director at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a Washington think tank on domestic women’s issues. “We want families to be able to afford care,” she said. Yet for the workers, she said, “We hope it will elevate the opportunity to earn a better salary overall.”

  • The Fastest Growing Job in America Pays Less Than $10 per Hour, Think Progress:

    Job growth in the American health care sector doubled from January to February, led by strong gains in ambulatory care givers, hospital workers, and home health aides. And as CNN Money points out, an uptick in America’s elderly population–fueled by aging Baby Boomers–will lead to an explosion in demand for such workers’ services.

  • How to Include Domestic Workers in Immigration Reform, The Nation:

    As a report released yesterday by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in collaboration with Caring Across Generations states, “Currently, native-born workers in the United States are not meeting the demands for long-term care, a situation that is unlikely to change as the demand for such care continues to grow. The IWPR report also notes that some immigrants may lack the financial literacy needed to keep careful employment records. The IWPR report outlines specific immigration reform that would reach them. It notes that the current array of temporary visas almost totally excludes domestic workers with the given requirements, and there are so few employment-based permanent visas available for ‘low-skill’ work that there’s a huge backlog for domestic workers seeking to immigrate.

  • Is Gender Justice Getting Shafted in Immigration Reform?, Truthout:

    Washington will likely ignore the recommendations of Institute for Women’s Policy Research to create a special program to bring domestic workers into the country legally, in response to high demand for home health aides and other care workers.

  • Pressure on Home Care Industry, Health Care Finance News:

    The demand for in-home care is growing by leaps and bounds, putting pressure on the home care industry to produce enough workers to meet the demand and provide high-quality care. A webinar … addressed some of the ways the industry can ensure it meets the needs of an aging population. Hosted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and Caring Across Generations, a campaign to give voice to home care workers, the webinar’s central theme was that offering training to home care workers is key to being able to attract and keep workers in the industry and provide quality care to care recipients.

  • The Real Value of In-Home Care Work in the United States, Mom’s Rising:

    A new briefing paper by IWPR, “Women and the Care Crisis: Valuing In-Home Care in Policy and Practice,” outlines these challenges but emphasizes that, despite the growing demand, in-home care work jobs continue to be undervalued and underpaid. While often working long hours to care for others, many in-home care workers cannot afford to take care of their own needs. According to IWPR’s analysis, the median weekly earnings for all female in-home care workers are $308, compared with $560 for all female workers in the U.S. workforce. In-home care workers are also excluded from coverage by the Fair Labor Standards Act, the federal law that helps ensure basic standards of living for U.S. workers by requiring employers to pay minimum wages and provide overtime compensation. The general lack of value placed on paid care work is due to a number of complex factors. Research suggests that what is seen as traditionally women’s labor, at all skill levels, reaps lower economic rewards. The simple fact that the majority of paid care work is performed by women could contribute to its lower average wages. Care work also blurs the lines between formal and informal labor, which can result in the workers being perceived as part of the family and make it more difficult for them to set boundaries that define the requirements and terms of their jobs. Many in-home care workers are immigrants who may lack pathways to legal status, leaving them vulnerable to low levels of pay and to abuses from employers. According to IWPR research analysis, 90 percent of home health care aides in the United States are women, 56 percent are women of color, and 28 percent are foreign-born with the vast majority (60 percent) migrating from Latin America and the Caribbean. Despite the fact that these immigrant workers are filling an essential labor gap, many remain undocumented and without clear access to citizenship or visa status. Many domestic worker and immigrant groups are waiting to see if Congress will address this issue. Among the recommendations in IWPR’s report, Increasing Pathways to Legal Status for Immigrant in-Home Care Workers (published February 2013), is an increase in the number and types of immigration visas available to immigrant care workers to help fill the labor shortage in the U.S. industry.

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