2007 National Survey of Latinos: As Illegal Immigration Issue Heats Up, Hispanics Feel a Chill

Source Organization: Pew Research Center

12/13/2007 - Hispanics in the United States are feeling a range of negative effects from the increased public attention and stepped up enforcement measures that have accompanied the growing national debate over illegal immigration.

Just over half of all Hispanic adults in the U.S. worry that they, a family member or a close friend could be deported, a new nationwide survey of Latinos by the Pew Hispanic Center has found. Nearly two-thirds say the failure of Congress to enact an immigration reform bill has made life more difficult for all Latinos. Smaller numbers (ranging from about one-in-eight to one-in-four) say the heightened attention to immigration issues has had a specific negative effect on them personally. These effects include more difficulty finding work or housing; less likelihood of using government services or traveling abroad; and more likelihood of being asked to produce documents to prove their immigration status.

However, when respondents were asked about changes in the overall situation of Latinos in this country in the past year, no consensus view emerged. About one-in-three say things have gotten worse, about one-in-four say things have gotten better, and about four-in-ten say there has been no change. Despite their concerns about the impact of the immigration debate, Hispanics are generally content with their own lives and upbeat about the long-term prospects for Latino children. Nearly eight-in-ten respondents, for example, say they are very (45%) or somewhat (33%) confident that Hispanic children growing up now will have better jobs and more money than they have.

Hispanics are the nation's largest minority group, numbering 47 million (about 15.5% of the total U.S. population). About a quarter of Hispanic adults are unauthorized immigrants, most of them arriving as part of a heavy wave of immigration that began gathering force in the 1970s. Twice in the past two years, the U.S. Congress tried but failed to pass comprehensive legislation to deal with the problem of illegal immigration. However, federal, state and local governments have pressed forward with hundreds of new enforcement bills, regulations and procedures--including stepped up deportations, more workplace raids, and restrictions on access to driver's licenses and other government services and benefits.

The survey finds that Hispanics oppose these enforcement measures, often by lopsided margins. Three quarters (75%) disapprove of workplace raids; some 79% prefer that local police not take an active role in identifying illegal immigrants; and some 55% disapprove of states checking for immigration status before issuing driver's licenses. By contrast, non-Hispanics are much more supportive of all these policies, with a slight majority favoring workplace raids and a heavy majority favoring driver's license checks.

Read the full report 2007 National Survey of Latinos on the Pew Hispanic Center Web site.

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