July 29, 2014

Hispanics split on how to address surge in Central American child migrants

Hispanics views of children immigrants, ObamaHispanics in the U.S. are divided on how to deal with the thousands of Central American children illegally arriving in the country, according to a Pew Research survey conducted earlier this month.  About as many Hispanics support the current system for deciding immigration cases as do those expediting the process (49% – 47%), which would have the effect of speeding up deportations.

The split among Hispanics is in contrast to views of the overall public, which backs a faster process over the current policy by 53% to 39%.

Under current practice, it can take months or even years before the children are processed through the U.S. immigration system and either given asylum (or other legal status) or ordered deported. President Obama has asked for $3.7 billion in emergency funds, in part to help shorten the legal process by providing more judges. Meanwhile, the Senate and House are considering legislation of their own to deal with the issue.

A record number of unaccompanied children have been arrested at the U.S.-Mexico border within the past fiscal year. Between Oct. 1, 2013, and June 30 of this year, 57,525 unaccompanied children under 18 (those traveling without a parent or guardian), were taken into custody, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In June alone, about 10,508 were apprehended by Border Patrol compared with the 27,884 children who were apprehended during all of last fiscal year.

The new survey also shows that Hispanics are more likely than U.S. adults overall to have heard about the influx of children from Central America. Some 94% of Hispanics said they had heard “a lot” or “a little” about the issue, compared with 89% of U.S. adults.

Like the general public, Hispanics — a diverse group that includes people with roots in more than 20 countries — give the president low marks on his handling of the surge of children. Some 46% of Hispanics disapprove and 34% approve of the president’s handling of the issue, while Americans overall disapprove of the president’s performance by a 56% to 28% margin. (A Washington Post/ABC poll had similar results.)

Obama and some members of Congress have said the “humanitarian crisis” is yet another reason to pass a broad immigration bill – action that has been stalled by partisan disagreements since the Senate passed a bill one year ago but the House did not take up the measure.

Hispanics are more likely than the general public to say it’s important for Congress to act on immigration. Three-quarters (75%) of Hispanics say it’s “extremely” or “very important” to pass significant new immigration legislation this year, compared with 61% of the general U.S. public (respondents were not asked whether they favored expanding or restricting legal immigration).

Hispanics also put more faith in the Democrats than the Republicans on the immigration issue, with 54% saying the Democrats would do a better job compared with 40% of the overall public.

While about two-thirds (68%) of the overall public support allowing undocumented immigrants to stay in the country if they meet certain requirements, a significantly larger share (85%) of Hispanics holds that view.

Indeed, Hispanics put a premium on changes in deportation policy. By a 55% to 35% margin, Hispanics said it is more important for undocumented immigrants to get relief from deportation than it is to have a pathway to citizenship, according to a 2013 survey of Hispanic adults by the Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project.

Topics: Immigration, Unauthorized Immigration, Immigration Attitudes, Hispanic/Latino Vote

  1. Photo of Jens Manuel Krogstad

    is a writer/editor focusing on Hispanics, immigration and demographics at Pew Research Center.

  2. Photo of Ana Gonzalez-Barrera

    is a senior researcher focusing on Hispanics, immigration and demographics at Pew Research Center.


  1. Sharleen Maldonado+Ward3 years ago

    The past research we have conducted over fifteen years at the border among fellow NGOs and MexAmerica residents of the SW corridor has resulted in the following:
    Presentations to the Secretary General of the US, fifteen presentations/testimony to the Senate, formidable polling among Mexican American families, and 22 grants projects dealing with the colonias initiative and the corruption in Chiapas, a Mexican border state, since 1998. The harsh reality is regional bias at every turn for the SW border region that is endemic. Reverse it and try to understand how Mexico also has a difficulty with the NW border, which is more affluent than the US side. Stir in disdain in legislative corridors, a weakening of MexicanAmericans by diluting SW heritage in the term Hispanic, which is only a term of political convenience according to our research. It is notable that there is a conflict with the issue of humanitarian needs, movement north of cartels from Colombia, and the threat to Mexican American families who have their own indignation at the influx of Central Americans who have claimed to be “chicano”. This has to do with the heritage ties to a motherland, Mexico, as opposed to Spain for most of Central America. This has caused great confusion with the term Hispanic, and there is deep, deep resentment…Pacific Rim Institute (PRIDE), UN NGO

  2. mariamerced3 years ago


  3. Pedro Perico Perez Pulido3 years ago

    If the corrupt governments of these countries do nothing to put a stop to the exodus of their people then we should consider stopping the billions of dollars of aid that we provide them. Why should my tax money be used to aid a corrupt government, a lawless country and a population that has no notion of respect for sovereignty and who hate our country.

    1. unique3 years ago

      Muy bueno.

  4. Maria3 years ago

    The financial (economy) strangulation affecting these countries must be unbearable, for these parents and extended family alike, to allow their children to separate and endure such a traumatic journey.
    This is unprecedented for the Latino countries: Even extended family has always been there to help with the little they have. The psychological consequences for this journey, if not exodus, are endless and costly.
    Blessings to all the agencies that are collaborating.

    1. unique3 years ago

      How poor can these families be if they can
      put together $6500.00 to send a child to
      the United States?

      There are many American families here
      that do not have that amount of money.

      We need to take care of Americans first
      not illegals.

  5. Packard Day3 years ago

    It is fairly easy to understand why the US Chamber of Commerce, the Democratic Party leadership, the Wall Street Journal, and a sizable number of the Washington DC Republican elites are all in favor of unfettered immigration reform. For the “Washington DC/Wall Street Patriot” class, we are talking about creating a new source of low skilled & low educated manual labor needed to haul society’s water and hew society’s wood. These new workers are certainly no threat to the jobs now held by the elites or their families. Okay, I think we all got that much.
    Nevertheless, many Latino-American citizens (along with Blacks, union workers, and other low skilled or otherwise low educated workers) might now be having second thoughts about immigration reform. The potential new immigrant workers represent a direct threat to America’s bottom 60%. As such, they will compete for the same low paying and/or easily replaceable manual or service jobs that are currently in such short supply across the fruited plains. Ergo & ipso facto, it is highly predictable that Latino-American citizens (among others) might now ask, what is in immigration reform for them and their families? What indeed?

    1. SRW3 years ago

      A lot of truth is in what you are thinking. However, without reform, a problem will still remain. What do you think the answer should be?

    2. Nilda Cruikshank3 years ago

      True and accurate. I’m an immigrant myself.

    3. Doug Kelly3 years ago

      More true than not. I believe that if you were to untangle the numbers, locate the people, and determine the jobs they’re currently performing, it would reveal part of the problem of the vanishing middle class.

      Of course, the main reason for the vanishing middle class, apart from lack of good jobs, is the horrifying economic conditions in the US, the obscene tax code, and the near purposeful killing of small businesses, about which not one governing slob is doing a thing.

    4. Cynthia Curran3 years ago

      The problem is that the right has done very little to help American workers. i lived in Orange County California, did the conservatives stop companies from hiring illegal immirgantss not at all. So, while I hear the right whine about the issue they have done very little in the states or counties they control on illegal immigration maybe a few fines on companies that hire them but not much.