Apr 18, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Some Latinos say immigrants hurt their social status, research shows

Supporters of President Donald Trump protest outside the Clark County Election Department on November 7, 2020 in North Las Vegas, Nevada.

Supporters of President Donald Trump, including Latinos, protest outside the Clark County Election Department on Nov. 7, 2020 in North Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

One-third of Latinos say they believe immigrants negatively impact their social status in the U.S., per a new study.

Why it matters: Latinos, who will represent nearly 15% of all eligible voters in the November presidential election, are increasingly supportive of the type of restrictive immigration policies that former President Trump is proposing and President Biden is considering.

The big picture: New evidence suggests a growing number of Latinos see immigration from Latin America as hurting their well-being in the U.S. They cite fears over being wrongly deported and being targets of discrimination, according to two new studies.

  • The findings come as civil rights advocates worry about rising anti-immigrant sentiment.
  • A majority of Latinos still say there should be a pathway for citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
  • Latino civil rights groups advocate on behalf of immigrants and are fighting new immigration restrictions in Texas and other states.

Zoom in: A study recently published in the Public Opinion Quarterly found some Latinos blame immigrants for their "broader status devaluation" in the in the American racial hierarchy.

  • Washington College political science professor Flavio Rogerio Hickel Jr., one of the study's authors, tells Axios that Latinos wish other Americans could see the distinctions between them and recently arrived immigrants.
  • "This is primarily motivated by a resentment that they feel like they're suffering because they're lumped in with immigrant Latinos who are not highly valued in American society," Hickel says.
  • Hickel says these attitudes are part of something he calls the "Latino Immigrant Resentment" theory.

The intrigue: Another study, published in the European Political Science Review, found Latino support for former President Donald Trump is growing not in spite but because of his anti-immigrant rhetoric.

  • Support for Trump rose among Latinos in Arizona, Florida, and some New Mexico counties between 2016 and 2020, and those Latinos admitted to holding anti-immigrant views.
  • Idan Franco, one of the authors of the report and a research assistant at Northwestern University, tells Axios intra-ethnic tensions and intra-racism may be playing a part, but that the Latinos in the study see themselves as different from recent immigrants and identify with Trump's proposals.

Between the lines: "This is an anti-discrimination thing, not an anti-immigrant thing," New Mexico Democratic political consultant Sisto Abeyta tells Axios.

  • Abeyta says some Latinos have concluded the discrimination they face for being confused as undocumented immigrants is too overwhelming and their priority is protecting their families first.

The findings shouldn't be surprising given a history of racism among Latinos that is rarely discussed, Tanya K. Hernández, author of "Racial Innocence: Unmasking Latino Anti-Black Bias," tells Axios.

  • But the data analyzed in the surveys doesn't break down Hispanic responses by race and doesn't capture nuanced racial perceptions, says Hernández, a Fordham University law professor who suggests separating responses from Afro-Latinos and Latinos who identify as white.
  • "It's very useful to talk about Latinx populations" as different groups, "as opposed to this one single community," Hernández says. "Then, it's not so illogical to understand how rhetoric that plays factions against each other can really be quite attractive."

Flashback: Leaders of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s often advocated for more restrictive immigration policies since they believed undocumented immigrants were used to break strikes and keep wages down.

  • Civil rights lawyer Gus Garcia visited the White House in 1952, seeking more immigration restrictions while also fighting against the segregation of Mexican American children in schools.

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