The days when one spouse remained at home and the other went to work aren’t the norm any longer in our society. Although there may still be some households where only one spouse works outside the home, in many cases having two working spouses is one of the requirements of the economic and societal reality within which we now live.
While the Cleavers exemplified the idealized middle-class suburban family of the mid-20th century, times have changed, and now Modern Family brings us the experiences of diverse family units.
Decades of changes within our own culture and values have led to the recognition of both spouses’ talents outside the home. The traditional roles of domestic spouses and working spouses are no longer rigid models in a family and with two incomes the overall financial stability and security of many family units has improved.
Our country’s H-1B visa program however, lagged behind these realities until last week when the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) finally announced a visa rule revision that will allow spouses of some highly skilled immigrants to apply to work in the United States. This rule recognizes the contributions spouses of foreign workers can also bring to our society and economy.
USCIS director Leon Rodriguez noted that “[spouses] are, in many cases, in their own right highly skilled workers,” and that “many families struggled financially when a spouse couldn’t work, and in some cases returned to their country.”
More importantly this rule revision will have a tremendous effect on immigrant women because a large number of the H-1B spouses are, in fact, women. Women who may have completed advanced degrees in their home country and are well qualified to hold jobs in their own professions, but who until now have been barred from doing so. They have had to make a choice, either to pursue their own career or focus entirely on their spouse’s while he was employed on an H-1B visa. The Administration’s willingness to recognize these inequities for immigrant women living in our society and the agency’s action in revising this arcane rule is another step forward in remedying the complex and outdated rules in our current immigration system.
The announcement and the impact the revision of the rule will have on many foreign workers and their families are welcomed, but this is only a limited remedy. It is important to note that the new authorization doesn’t apply to the spouses of all H-1B visa holders. The regulations only cover those whose H-1B partners are seeking permanent legal residency and for whom the agency has already approved an employer petition to start the process.
Our immigration system remains a product of the past century and hinders our country’s ability to remain competitive in this global economy. The efforts by this Administration to bring relief to companies seeking to keep or hire talent should be a catalyst for Congress to get to work on further reform of our immigration laws.
Competitiveness increases profits and strengthens our economy. Research shows that immigrants complement American workers. It is time to leave the Cleavers to our history and modernize our immigration laws to chart the economic future of our nation and the financial stability of our families.
Written by Annaluisa Padilla, AILA Second Vice President