Is A 'Pathway To Citizenship' The Right Concern?
Much of the debate over whether and how to overhaul the country's immigration policy has hinged on whether and how to create a pathway to citizenship. But a majority of Latinos now say that's less important for unauthorized immigrants than giving them relief from the threat of deportation.
That finding comes from a Pew report based on new surveys of Latinos and Asian-Americans, who together make up about two-thirds of all the legal immigrants in the U.S. (Latinos make up most of the population of immigrants who are here illegally.) Fifty-five percent of Latinos believe deportation is a bigger issue than citizenship, compared with 35 percent who believe the reverse; 6 percent say both are of equal importance. For Asian-Americans, that spread was much closer: 49 percent to 44 percent.
More foreign-born Latinos think it's important to reduce the threat of deportation than do the native born — which probably isn't surprising, considering that 97 percent of all the people the U.S. deported in 2010 came from Latin American countries. Eighty percent of foreign-born Latinos said they wanted "significant immigration reform" to pass this year. (Fifty-seven percent of native-born Latinos felt the same way.)
The surveys' findings track with evidence that shows there are lots of reasons why people with legal status might not prioritize citizenship. Most legal immigrants in the United States are not citizens. They enjoy a host of rights short of voting and things like the ability to serve on a jury. The process of becoming a full citizen for those extra benefits might not seem worth the cost and effort for those who are eligible.
Another interesting finding is that Asian-Americans and Latinos are more concerned about standard civic issues than they are about immigration — they say domestic issues like jobs and employment, education, health care and the federal budget deficit are all more important.
But that doesn't mean the issue is without political consequence: Pluralities of both Latinos and Asian-Americans say they would blame Republicans if an immigration bill failed to pass, while about 3 in 10 say they would blame Democrats.
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