Pew: Americans Not Informed About Immigration

A new comprehensive analysis from Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends group provides deep insights into the history of immigration in the United States and concludes that current attitudes from Americans about this contentious topic are mostly mixed and somewhat misinformed.

The top-line points from Pew share several key findings —“nearly 59 million immigrants have arrived in the United States, pushing the country’s foreign-born share to a near record 14%”— but it is a specific section of the analysis (Chapter 4: U.S. Public Has Mixed Views of Immigrants and Immigration) that presents some telling conclusions about the current immigration debate and the 2016 election cycle:

How Well Do Americans Know About Immigration Facts?

The following chart from Pew shows how well Americans answered questions about certain immigration facts. The first question in the chart shows that 53% of American adults did not know the current percentage of foreign-born individuals was 13% of the U.S. population. In addition, 36% believe that the share of undocumented individuals as part of America’s immigrant population is higher than 26%, which is the correct answer. Furthermore, 69% of American adults believe that Latin Americans represent the largest group of new immigrants from the last five years. The correct answer is Asian immigrants.

PH_2015-09-28_immigration-through-2065-51 (1)

How Do Americans View Immigrants From Different Parts of the World?

According to Pew, American adults view European and Asian immigrants more favorably than immigrants from others parts of the world, with Latin American and Middle Eastern immigrants being viewed as “mostly negative.”

PH_2015-09-28_immigration-through-2065-42 (1)

Pew also drilled down a bit more to share how Republicans view Latin American immigrants. This chart shows that 58% of Republicans have a “mostly negative” view of Latin American immigrants.


How Do Americans Describe Immigrants?

According to Pew, 12% of American adults say the word “illegal” first when asked to describe immigrants. This is the chart Pew presented, showing all the different words that came to mind:


How Do Americans View Impact of Immigrants?

Pew also provided one chart showing how American adults view immigrants’ contributions to society.


Based on that chart, Pew concluded the following:

Americans are more likely to say immigrants to the U.S. are making American society better than making it worse. According to the survey, a plurality of Americans (45%) say that immigrants coming to the U.S. make American society better in the long run, while 37% say they make society worse and 16% say immigrants don’t have much of an effect one way or the other.

But there are major differences in the way different groups of Americans answer this question, with immigrants themselves, college graduates, Hispanics and younger Americans much more likely to be sanguine about the impact the foreign born are having on the United States, while Republicans, those with a high school diploma or less, and whites are more likely to have the most negative views of immigrants’ impact on the U.S.

Hispanics are more likely than whites or blacks to say immigrants are making U.S. society better, possibly reflecting the groups’ strong recent immigrant roots. According to the survey, about six-in-ten (61%) Hispanics say that in the long run, immigrants to the U.S. are making American society better while just 20% say they make it worse and 17% say immigrants have not had much effect on U.S. society.

By comparison, 44% of blacks say the impact of immigrants is positive, a plurality among them. But among whites, while 41% say immigrants make American society better in the long run, a similar share (43%) says immigrants make American society worse.

Fabio Comes Home

Fabio and his little brother Delvis can travel freely between their families in Honduras and the U.S., but their parents and grandparents can’t. Reporter Nina Feldman accompanies Fabio on a journey back home to pick up his little brother from his grandparents’ home in San Pedro Sula and bring him back to his parents’ waiting arms in New Orleans.

Photo of Fabio (l) and Delvis (r) via Nina Feldman

What the GOP Candidates Said About Immigration

The second Republican debate last night in California dived into several topics, but as expected, immigration was part of the discussion. Here is a Storify series of video clips that highlighted what the candidates said.

Featured image: screen grab via YouTube

Conservative Latinos Draw Line on Immigration

Saying that certain immigration proposals “are not in line with [their] principles” or “in the best interest of the country,” the executive director of one of the country’s top Latino conservative political organizations published an open letter today, explaining that his group will reject any immigration reform proposal that includes “an end to the longstanding practice of birthright citizenship in the United States” and “the mass deportation of millions of immigrants and U.S. citizens, particularly those who have obeyed U.S. laws and contributed to society since arriving in the country.”

Daniel Garza, executive director of the LIBRE Initiative, released a “An open letter to all Americans,”  via an email press release and on LIBRE’s site. NPR also reported the news of Garza’s letter earlier this morning. The letter begins: “In recent days there has been public attention to America’s immigration system, and many proposals to amend the system have been discussed.”  The complete letter is available on LIBRE’s main site:

In a conversation with NPR, Garza said: “If you’re somebody who’s proposing bad policies, we’re going to call you out. Period, without regard to political consequences, what the political winds are. We are going to stand on sound ideas and sound policy.”


Latino USA connected with LIBRE with the hopes of talking directly with Garza. His schedule wouldn’t allow for a phone call, but he did provide answers to two questions sent to LIBRE  via email:

Latino USA: The letter does not mention any specific candidates, but it does seem to address the current comments made by candidates such as Donald Trump and other GOP candidates who have spoken about birthright citizenship and deportation. Is this letter a direct rejection of Trump’s comments?

Daniel Garza: This letter is about immigration reform. It’s about ideas and policy proposals. The letter is a direct rejection of any policy approach that may be overly costly to taxpayers, and goes against the sentiment of the majority in the U.S. who support the integration of undocumented immigrants to our country. The LIBRE Initiative has and continues to support efforts to achieve immigration reform that benefits our country, economy and population.

LUSA: What does LIBRE plan to do so that such policy suggestions do not become part of a national GOP platform? Will it be spending money to educate voters about LIBRE’s specific position?

DG: The LIBRE Initiative’s main focus has always been to promote the ideals of a free society, thus we intend to continue our work in educating our community on economic freedom and limited government—regardless of the policy stances elected officials may take. We’ll continue to drive ideas in a variety of ways, including through our events and a host of other outreach efforts.

The organization’s Facebook page, which has more than 382,000 likes, also posted news of the open letter, eliciting over 70 comments. Reaction to the open letter was mixed:

“Then we will keep on getting the disaster we have now. This was the biggest incentive for foreign females to get into the USA, have the child, and get immunity from deportation. What a stupid concept, how did the American people ever allow this to get started.”

“Señor LIBRE, por favor, the issue of “mass deportation” is a fallacy. Let’s face this with honesty. It is a stigmatizing slogan meant to appoint bigotry onto the Republican Party. More specifically, the Caucasian contingent of the conservatively principled, and TEA Party supportive Americans. The Leftist contrived mantras of ’round em up’, ‘put them in boxcars’, and ‘mass deport them all’ were conjured up to distract and conceal the realities of the federal government intentionally and willfully appropriating themselves justification to continue facilitating illegal immigration – and all for its own purpose. Attrition through enforcement (mass enforcement of American immigration law) will begin the processes of migrants voluntarily leaving to reconsider their re-entry into the US. The undocumented immigrant foreigner will experience and understand for himself the significance, the impotence and the need to enter the United States through the available legal means. The US immigration system is not broken. What is broken is the federal will to enforce the laws. It is the only factor in the system that has been intentionally damaged (to a halt) by the DC Establishment Cartel. The national focus should be placed there, to have it become the impetus toward a primary correction that would then lead to addressing other needs.”

“The American taxpayer cannot be everything for everybody. We need to put America and Americans first.”

“Really disappointed with the amount of outrage and personal attacks on this comment thread. So many people claim to be for free markets but then indulge in knee-jerk support of big government solutions that are impractical—like mass deportations that would cost in the hundreds of billions.

LIBRE is considered by many political observers as an influential group, having gained the attention of Democrats due to highly-publicized reports that LIBRE receives funding from the Koch brothers and is making inroads with U.S. Latinos. According to its website, “LIBRE is dedicated to informing the U.S. Hispanic community about the benefits of a constitutionally limited government, property rights, rule of law, sound money supply and free enterprise through a variety of community events, research and policy initiatives that protect our economic freedom.”

Garza’s letter comes at a time when Trump’s net unfavorable with U.S. Latinos is at –51%, according to a recent Gallup poll.

From Discarded Belongings to Border Art

The migrant pathways near the Arizona border are covered with empty tuna cans, clothes and lost toothbrushes. Most Americans only know of the migrants’ stories through news coverage or the heated political discussion on immigration policy, but people living at the border have a much closer relationship to the stories. Several artists are collecting the items left behind on the trails and transforming them into sculptures and multimedia installations. The artists hope to make the migrants’ stories more personal for viewers—and maybe even, generate sympathy.

Alicia Fernandez contributed reporting to this story, which was produced in association with Round Earth Media, a nonprofit organization that mentors the next generation of international journalists.

We have posted several of Alicia’s photos below. You can also check out Alicia’s beautiful multimedia version of this story, published in El Diario de Juárez.

Arizona Dreamers Five Years Later

Dulce Matuz started a new life as an undocumented American in Arizona when she was 15 years old. She was a star student, participated on the robotics team in high school and got into the engineering program at Arizona State University. In 2006, Arizona passed Proposition 300, which stripped undocumented students of in-state tuition for school and forced a lot of undocumented students to drop out of school. Dulce had a choice: self-deport or stay and fight. She chose the latter. Dulce co-founded the Arizona Dream Act Coalition to fight for immigrant rights while Arizona was in the process of enacting some of the nation’s strictest anti-immigration laws. Maria Hinojosa recently met up with Matuz in Phoenix to talk about what’s happening with Arizona politics around immigration today, five years after Arizona passed its controversial “show me your papers law,” SB 1070.

Photo by Marlon Bishop/Latino USA

Boarders Crossing Borders

Kelvin, Rene, Kevin, and Eliseo are four skaters who came up in the same small community in El Salvador. Skating is their passion but it was not easy to live the skater lifestyle in El Salvador. Local gangs would target the skaters because for many, skating was an alternative to gang life and therefore a threat to the gang’s power. When a group of skaters ended up in the hospital after being attacked by a gang in March, the four guys decided to leave El Salvador and try to make it to their dream city: Los Angeles.

Levi Vonk, a Fulbright scholar living in Mexico, met the guys while they were traveling through Mexico and helps us tell their story crossing Central America.

Here is the link to Levi’s article for Rolling Stone on the skater crew.

Photo via Levi Vonk

Gallup’s Latest Immigration Poll May Surprise You

Earlier today, Gallup released the latest results of an ongoing poll about immigration—a topic GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush described as a “wedge issue” during last week’s Republican debate.

Bush’s “wedge issue” characterization is not that far off, if you take into account what Gallup shared as part of its Minority Rights and Relations survey. Here is the topline:

“The U.S. public demonstrates no clear preference on what U.S. immigration levels should be. On this contentious issue, 40% say levels should remain where they are, but only slightly fewer (34%) advocate a decrease in the stream of immigrants. One-quarter of the country prefers an increase in immigration levels, the sole response of the three to see a general increase in support over the past 15 years.”


If you look back to the beginning of when this poll started, the push for less immigration peaked at 58% in 2002 a few months after the 9/11 attacks. Support for more immigration was only at about 8% around the same time. Why the changes 13 years later?

Could it be that this country has is getting more and more Latino? More from Gallup:

“Preferences for changes in immigration levels vary considerably by the respondents’ race or ethnicity. Hispanics —half of whom say they are immigrants themselves— are most likely to say immigration levels should be increased (36%), while non-Hispanic whites offer the least amount of support for that proposition (21%). Blacks fall in between the two, at 30%. Despite these differences, the overall trend is similar for all three groups. Support for allowing increased immigration levels hit a low ebb for all races/ethnicities in the years immediately after 9/11, and climbed to new or nearly new highs in 2015.”


Nonetheless, does this mean that immigration and the politics surrounding this very contentious topic will begin to show some signs of alignment? It is too early to tell, but a Pew poll from late spring would suggest that the “wedge issue” will still remain a “wedge issue” for the 2016 elections, especially when the topic of immigration focuses on the issue of the country’s undocumented population. A few things to note about the Pew findings:

“…most Americans (72%) continue to say undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. should be allowed to stay in the country legally, if certain requirements are met.”

“About half (51%) say immigrants today strengthen the country because of their hard work and talents, while 41% say immigrants are a burden because they take jobs, housing and health care. The share saying that immigrants strengthen the country has declined six percentage points since last year.”

“A majority of Republicans (56%) support a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants in the U.S. At the same time, far more Republicans say immigrants are a burden on the country (63%) than say they strengthen the country (27%).”


So the question remains: where does this country stand on immigration? Depending on who you support and how the immigration picture is presented, this “wedge issue” is just as partisan as it has ever been.

What do you think of the Gallup and Pew polls? Tweet me @julito77 with your thoughts or add your comments below.

Main photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images. Charts via Gallup and Pew.

Undocumented Home Owners Face Risky Options

A 2009 Pew Hispanic Center study shows that a third of undocumented immigrants own their own houses. Some bought their homes with cash, so-called mattress money saved up over the years. But for others, without that kind of savings, options for home mortgage financing are scarce. President Obama’s immigration overhaul is unlikely to change that. That means many immigrants resort to informal arrangements with risky consequences. Northwest Public Radio’s Rowan Moore Gerety reports from Yakima, Washington.

Photo courtesy of Rowan Moore Gerety 

The GOP response to executive action on immigration

Republicans in Congress were quick to condemn President Obama’s executive action on immigration to grant temporary relief to an estimated five million undocumented immigrants. Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner said that with his actions, the President had “chosen to deliberately sabotage any chance of enacting bipartisan reforms.” While incoming Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell said Congress would consider options to limit the President’s actions. But a survey on the eve of the President’s announcement by the polling firm Latino Decisions, has found that Latino registered voters were overwhelmingly in favor of the President’s actions. The poll confirms previous findings on the issue of immigration and the Latino vote. The poll was commissioned by and other immigrant rights groups. In this segment, see how reactions from prominent Latino Republicans square with the findings on these polls on the Latino vote.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons