Each year Equal Pay Day highlights the continued disparity in pay between men and women in the United States. In 2011 women who worked full time and year round earned only 77 cents to every dollar earned by men. That wage gap persists and is even more pronounced in the immigrant community: An immigrant woman who has naturalized earns just 75 cents to a naturalized man’s dollar, and undocumented immigrant women from Mexico are even more disadvantaged, earning only 71 cents for every dollar that undocumented men from Mexico earn.
There are 5.4 million undocumented women living in America, and those who are employed are perhaps the most underpaid workers in the workforce due to the double wage disparity that is a consequence of gender-based and immigration-status-based discrimination.
Correcting the gender wage gap in the United States will require a host of actions, including passing the Paycheck Fairness Act, which prohibits gender-based pay discrepancies and bans workplace policies that don’t allow employees to disclose their wages to each other. Common-sense immigration reform that includes a road map to citizenship would represent a significant step toward pay equity. As we move into the congressional debate on wage disparities and immigration reform, let us consider the women who are earning far less money than they deserve and remember that reform is not just about fixing a broken immigration system; it can also be a step toward gender equality.
Ann Garcia is a Policy Analyst for the Immigration Policy team at the Center for American Progress. Patrick Oakford is a Research Assistant in the Economic Policy department at the Center.