Friday, October 29, 2010

Hispanics in U.S. more divided over illegal immigrants

How Hispanics view immigrants' influence on the United States:

Hispanics are growing more divided about how they view illegal immigration, and native-born Hispanics aren't as convinced of the contributions of illegal immigrants as they used to be, according to a study released today.

Hispanics are split when asked to assess the effect of illegal immigration on Hispanics living in the United States: 29% say it has had a positive impact, 31% negative and 30% believe it made no difference, according to the study from the non-partisan Pew Hispanic Center. That is a sharp decline from a 2007 survey, when 50% of Hispanics said illegal immigrants were having a positive impact.

The study also finds a split between Hispanics who were born in the United States and those who came from another country. When asked if immigrants are a strength, 69% of native-born Hispanics agreed, compared with 85% of new arrivals.

Bob Dane, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates lower levels of legal and illegal immigration, said he is disturbed by what he calls a contradiction in the findings.

While more Hispanics are viewing illegal immigration as a burden on Americans, he said, there is still a collective opposition to limit immigration. The study found that 53% of Hispanics believe illegal immigrants should pay a small fine but not be deported, and 28% say illegal immigrants should not face any punishment. Only 13% of Hispanics believe illegal immigrants should be deported.

A large majority of Hispanics, 79%, oppose Arizona's immigration law, which would require police officers to determine the immigration status of suspects stopped for another offense if there was "reasonable suspicion" they were in the country illegally. The law is on hold because of a legal challenge.

Dane said that attitude stems from Hispanic organizations trying to "blur the line" between legal and illegal immigration and painting efforts to curtail illegal immigration as "discriminatory and draconian." "Over time, I think we will see a narrowing of that gap between their recognition of the problem and their opposition to the solution," Dane said.

Mark Lopez, associate director of the center and co-author of the report, says the apparent disconnect between Hispanics who view illegal immigration as having a negative impact while still opposing some anti-immigration efforts simply mirrors the complicated opinions that all Americans have over immigration.

He says polls have shown that a majority of Americans support Arizona's immigration law, but also favor providing illegal immigrants with some way to become legal. The same goes for Hispanics, who he said largely oppose worksite immigration raids and building a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, but support placing more U.S. customs officers on the border.

"On different policy questions, Latinos have different points of view," Lopez says. "But you see that nationwide."

Lisa Navarrete of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights group, says the survey doesn't reflect a trend of Hispanics suddenly turning on illegal immigrants. Instead, she says the survey shows that the uproar over illegal immigration has hurt Hispanics.

Between Arizona's immigration law, copycat bills filed in other states and a hyper-charged election season that has seen political ads targeting illegal immigrants, Navarrete said Hispanics living legally in the U.S. feel they are also becoming targets.

"It's not that people are angry at the immigrants themselves, but they are concerned over the impact the uproar is having on their lives," Navarrete said. "It?s taking a toll."

The findings are from a national survey of 1,375 Hispanic adults conducted in English and Spanish Aug. 17 to Sept. 19. The margin of error is +/— 3.3 percentage points.


The case for immigration enforcement

If you support immigration, you have to ask yourself this question: What kind of enforcement system would you want if we were starting from zero and there were no unauthorized immigrants in the country? Would it be reasonable to deport anyone new who came and stayed illegally? If so, would it be reasonable for police to be able to fairly and easily check someone's citizenship? What about for someone who is arrested?

I think that most Americans - like citizens in other countries - would find such enforcement actions reasonable. I do.

But they present a quandary for immigrant activists, and it can be seen at its most elemental level in their opposition to a program called Secure Communities.

Field-tested in Boston, installed first in Houston two years ago, Secure Communities requires that local, state and federal jails check the fingerprints of everyone booked - regardless of color, crime or language - against national immigration and FBI databases. More than 660 jurisdictions in 32 states now participate in the program, and the Obama administration is pressing hard to install it in all of the nation's 3,100 state and local jails by 2013.

Some communities, such as the District, Arlington and Santa Clara, Calif., have tried to opt out but are discovering that they can't. The immigration check is automatic when a community checks with state and federal fingerprint databases.

Activists and some editorialists are furious, accusing the administration of caving in to bullying immigration restrictionists and nativists. The program's priority is to find unauthorized immigrants who are criminals. But critics charge that Secure Communities leads to discriminatory profiling of all Hispanics, and Asian, African and Caribbean Americans. They also say it undermines vital police relationships in immigrant communities, impairing the ability of police to fight violent crime.

These are valid concerns. But they are not enough to stop Secure Communities. The universal check of everyone arrested forecloses profiling inside the jails, while a claimed link from the jails to police actions on the street and to community relations is tenuous.

Arizona's immigration enforcement law went too far by requiring local police to seek documentation of immigration status from anyone they have "reasonable suspicion" of being here illegally. But in polls, one reason most Americans said they supported the Arizona law is that the principle of involving local police is not wrong; many European countries do the same. At some point, we have to trust our police.

Besides, there are many other controls against discriminatory harassment and arrests, including lawsuits such as the one brought this week accusing the New Haven, Conn., police department of targeting Latinos.

What, then, is the right point for local police involvement? Leftist humanitarians and rightist libertarians say almost none at all. They marginalize themselves. But more centrist and influential pro-immigrant groups such as the National Immigration Forum, though supporting enforcement in principle, stretch their credibility by emphasizing their criticism of even Secure Communities. It's as if there is no enforcement measure they like.

But here is the quandary. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced this month that a record number of more than 390,000 unauthorized immigrants were deported in this past fiscal year, but roughly half weren't criminals. Like most of the estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the country, they were law-abiding and already part of the American fabric.

The advocacy groups - as well as the administration and most Americans, according to polls - want to legalize them. Secure Communities has been key in contributing to the deportations, as it sweeps up people arrested for traffic violations and other minor infractions.

The nativists and restrictionists have been manipulating the Obama administration and most Americans by demanding tough enforcement measures but refusing to negotiate the legalization and temporary worker program that would make a crackdown fully work and get us back to point zero.

The 1986 amnesty failed precisely because effective enforcement and a legal temporary worker program weren't established. Today's unauthorized immigrants came in under the de facto temporary worker program left in place - crossing the border illegally for whatever jobs they could get.

The administration has no choice but to enforce the law, though it can and has been showing some leniency in putting off some deportations. But the activist groups need to be out in front of the enforcement argument, not trying to block it.


No comments:

Post a Comment