A new Gallup poll reveals that one in six people now call immigration the most important problem facing the U.S. In a time when immigration has become a focus of concern, Gender & Society research, a top-ranked journal in Gender Studies and Sociology, contributes a perspective rarely considered – how women seek immigration as a means to improving their lives, yet find life in the U.S. more stressful and less fulfilling than their home of origin.
In the study “Women’s Political Engagement in a Mexican Sending Community: Migration as Crisis and the Struggle to Sustain an Alternative,” sociologist Abigail Andrews at the University of California, San Diego, finds that migrant women who had come to the U.S. seeking a better life choose to return to their home village due to unfavorable immigration laws.
As one woman Andrews talked with put it: “I like my village; I like it a lot. There, you don’t have this fear of going out, like here. There, no, because you’re free.”
Andrews made an important discovery: She found that returning immigrant women bring something quite meaningful back with them – the motivation to improve the economic and political climate of their village in Mexico.
The new study to be published in August 2014 finds that in the case of San Miguel, a Mixtec community in Oaxaca, Mexico, the returned migrant women went on to predominate in civic affairs, attend and lead meetings, vote, and hold public office – political activities formerly exclusive to men.
Andrews learned of the women’s enhanced contributions when she studied women’s political engagement both in the U.S. and in San Miguel. Her research draws on 51 interviews (29 women and 22 men), a community survey, and a year of participant observation identifying the harsh conditions faced by women from San Miguel when migrating to Southern California.