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Immigration Policy is Personal for Latinos

Immigration Policy is Personal for Latinos

Photo: Detention or Deportation Due to Immigration Status

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Todays Contribution is from Latino Decisions. Latino Decisions offers research and in-depth analysis that enables decision makers to understand the concerns of the Latino community in each State, and helps decision makers identify how to deliver their messages effectively.


The most interesting trend from the June impreMedia/Latino Decisions (LD) poll is the personal relationship that the Latino community has with immigration policies. As reported here earlier, a majority of these voters (53%) said they know someone who is undocumented, while one-fourth (25%) said they know a person or family member who is facing deportation or who has been deported. These are striking numbers, particularly given that our sample for the poll is registered voters, who by definition are citizens of the United States. When we explore the percentage of respondents who know someone who is undocumented across key demographic indicators, factors like nativity and language use do not have any marked impact on personal experiences with undocumented immigrants. In fact, Latinos who were born in the United States and who are English speakers are more likely to know someone who has faced detention or deportation due to immigration reasons (see Figure Below) compared to Latinos who are closer to the immigration experience. We believe that this firsthand knowledge of the consequences of immigration policy has led to a significant change in the attitudes toward immigration among the Latino electorate. This blog attempts to clarify this relationship after reviewing Latino’s policy preferences toward immigration over time.

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Public Opinion Toward Immigration Policy Among Latinos

Given that a sizable segment of the Latino population were born in a country other than the United States, it is often assumed that Latinos have a monolithic and liberal policy stance on immigration. However, public opinion surveys of the Latino population over time have indicated that this is not always the case. For example, the Latino National Political Survey (1990) indicated that 75 percent of Mexican Americans, 79 percent of Puerto Ricans, and 70 percent of Cuban Americans agreed with the statement that there are “too many” immigrants coming to the United States. Several surveys conducted over the next decade or so validated this initial and somewhat controversial finding.  For example, The Knight Ridder /Mercury News survey in 2000 reported that forty-three percent of all Latinos nation-wide thought that the U.S. government was not doing enough to stop illegal immigration.

The Latino National Survey (2006) provides an opportunity to examine Latinos attitudes toward immigration during a time period when this policy area was particularly salient. When queried about their specific policy preferences regarding undocumented immigrants, 42% of Latinos favored immediate legalization of current undocumented immigrants. Another 32% of Latinos preferred a guest worker program leading to legalization eventually, with only 5% of Latinos preferring to see the border sealed or closed off to stop illegal immigration. Furthermore, a robust 91% of Latinos in the LNS indicated that immigrants strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents, compared to 9% who believed they were a burden due to taking away jobs, housing, and health care.  The Collaborative Multiracial Political Survey (CMPS) from 2008 confirms this apparent shift in Latino immigration attitudes, as Latinos are more likely (49%) to “strongly agree” that immigration has a positive impact on their state’s economy, and “strongly agree” (63%) that illegal immigrants who graduate from U.S. high schools should qualify for in state college tuition when compared to other racial/ethnic groups. Furthermore, Latino Decisions’ polls conducted over the past several years have consistently indicated that immigration policy is salient to Latino voters, and that a wide majority of the Latino electorate favors a pathway to citizenship status. Therefore, a comparison of survey data of Latinos over time suggests that Latinos’ attitudes toward immigration have become more liberal recently.

Read more at Latino Decisions