Hispanics are overwhelmingly opposed to increased enforcement of immigration laws while non-Hispanics generally support it, according to a survey released Thursday by the Pew Hispanic Center.
The enforcement measures also have caused widespread concern among Hispanics, whether legal residents or illegal immigrants, with just over half those surveyed saying they worry that they, a family member or a close friend could be deported.
Nearly two-thirds of Hispanics surveyed said the failure of Congress to enact an immigration reform bill has made life more difficult for all Hispanics, according to the center, a nonprofit and nonpartisan research organization based in Washington, D.C.
Immigration raids at residences or work sites have occurred this year in Danbury, New Haven and Hartford, prompting demonstrations by immigration activists but drawing praise from those in favor of stricter enforcement of immigration laws.
According to a report accompanying the survey, Connecticut is part of a trend that has seen state and local governments becoming increasingly involved in immigration issues in light of the federal government's failure to adopt reforms.
In state legislatures so far in 2007, 1,562 bills have been introduced concerning immigration, more than triple the number introduced in 2006. Laws restricting the rights or benefits of illegal immigrants outnumbered laws benefiting them by about a 2-1 ratio, according to statistics compiled by Stateline.org, a Pew Research Center website that covers state politics.
Ten states allow undocumented students to receive in-state tuition at public colleges. The Connecticut legislature passed a similar proposal this year, but it was vetoed by Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
On the local level, 34 law enforcement agencies in 15 states have partnered with federal immigration agents on enforcing immigration laws, with more likely to participate in the near future, according to the report. The idea is currently being considered by Danbury.
New Haven forbids its police to routinely inquire about immigration status, a policy now being proposed for Hartford after local police and federal immigration agents arrested 21 suspected illegal immigrants in Parkville last month during a criminal investigation.
Although the state has so far offered a mixed bag of responses to immigration, Gretchen Livingston, one of the study's authors, said there are differences in the policies of traditional settlement areas for illegal immigrants and newer areas, such as Connecticut.
"New settlement areas unaccustomed to immigration are more likely to engage in stepped up enforcement," she said Thursday in a teleconference from her office in Washington.
Pew has previously estimated that there are 55,000 to 85,000 illegal immigrants in Connecticut. The number of Latin American immigrants in the state increased 29 percent from 2000 to 2005, according to information from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The survey found 79 percent of Hispanics, including native born Hispanics such as Puerto Ricans, oppose local police taking an active role in immigration enforcement. In a separate survey conducted by Pew, non-Hispanics also opposed local enforcement but by a much narrower margin, with 49 percent opposed and 45 percent in favor. The remaining respondents had no opinion.
Hispanics and non-Hispanics also differed dramatically on the issue of workplace raids. Hispanics opposed workplace raids 75 percent to 20 percent, while non-Hispanics approved of them 51 percent to 42 percent.
Hispanics are the nation's largest minority group, numbering 47 million, and about a quarter of Hispanic adults are illegal immigrants, according to Pew.
Based on information from the federal government, the Pew report says deportations have increased 84 percent in the last five years to about 300,000 last fiscal year. Workplace arrests also have increased dramatically, from about 500 five years ago to 5,000 last fiscal year.
Despite their concerns, Hispanics said they were generally content with their lives in the U.S. and optimistic about the future, particularly for their children. Eight in 10 surveyed said they were very or somewhat confident that Hispanic children will grow up to have better jobs and more money than they have.
In addition to the wide gulf between the views of Hispanics and non-Hispanics, the survey finds less pronounced but still significant gaps between the attitudes of foreign and native Hispanics on a range of issues. Responses from native Hispanics were closer to non-Hispanics on matters such as perceptions about discrimination, attitudes about illegal immigration and support for tougher enforcement measures.
The survey was conducted by telephone from Oct. 3 to Nov. 9 among a randomly selected, nationally representative sample of 2,003 Hispanic adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points. The survey of non-Hispanic adults was conducted during the same period but with a smaller sample. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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