Immigration: A Great Divide Among Latinos


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Despite the furor over immigration reform and the crisis at the border and for DREAMers, the issue appears to register unevenly across the board for Hispanics.
Many say it ranks below issues similar to those most concerning non-Latinos and a new state survey in California shows that immigration is only the 6th-most-important issue for Latino voters in California when casting a vote for a candidate for U.S. Senator or for U.S. Congress.
Of course, it has become a rapidly changing issue, especially with the crisis of tens of thousands of unaccompanied Central American children having crossed the Mexican border into the U.S. in recent months and now in custody.
But even on that issue, Latinos are almost evenly split when it comes to how the U.S. government should respond, according to a Pew Research survey.
What gives? Why is it that an issue so inflammatory in Washington and some parts of the country fails to register strongly enough among Latinos so as to unite them, or even develop a consensus?
The answer is as diverse as America itself – and underscores just how varied Hispanics are in the country.
A 2010 University of Maryland study exploring those divided loyalties revealed “the importance of national origin and ethnic attachment and acculturation in explaining differences among Latinos on their attitudes toward immigration.”
Cuban Americans, Mexican American, Puerto Ricans, and the growing slew of Central Americans – Hondurans, Salvadorans, Nicaraguans – not to mention Argentines, Colombians and other South Americans.
They may share common attributes like the language, religion, food, customs. But, like much of America, they also have an independence politically and on issues such as immigration, fashioned by original nationality and how long they have been in the U.S.

“Mexicans are more pro-immigration than Latinos from other countries, and, foreign-born Latinos have much more positive attitudes about immigration than second-generation and third-generation,” that study reported.

“Latino support for various aspects of immigration is primarily a function of ethnic and linguistic identity and attachment to the American culture, with self interest, contextual variables, and political and demographic attributes playing a smaller, more specialized role.”
A Brown University study supported the same conclusion — a growing diversity among Latino groups in the U.S. that is marked by class and regional differences.
A Pew Hispanic Center study, also from 2010 as well, reported almost equal divisions among American Latinos on the impact of immigration.
A Pepperdine University report further concluded that as Latino immigrants assimilate into U.S. society and become part of the middle class they come to share the same moderate political and social values and beliefs as all middle class Americans.
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