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Immigration isn't the top priority for Latinos, survey says

January 15, 2009 | 10:46 am

Days before Barack Obama begins his presidency, a new survey reports that Latinos do not believe immigration should be at the top of the priority list for the new administration.

Felipe Pillado stands inside the Republic Windows and Doors factory in Chicago, Illinois. Pillado, a 10-year veteran of the company, was among the 200 workers who got three days' notice their factory was shutting down. a new survey reports that Latinos do not believe immigration should be at the top of the priority list for the new administration. Rather, Latinos said that the economy was the most important issue, followed by education, healthcare and national security. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images) Rather, Latinos said that the economy was the most important issue, followed by education, healthcare and national security.

Only 31% of Latinos rated immigration as an “extremely important” issue for the president-elect to address after being inaugurated. Meanwhile, 57% of Latinos said the economy was extremely important.

“Latinos are no different from anybody else,” said Mark Hugo Lopez, the lead author of the Pew Hispanic Center study released today. “The economic downturn has impacted Latinos in many ways.”

Photo: Felipe Pillado stands inside the Republic Windows and Doors factory in Chicago, Illinois. Pillado, a 10-year veteran of the company, was among the 200 workers who got three days' notice their factory was shutting down. a new survey reports that Latinos do not believe immigration should be at the top of the priority list for the new administration. Rather, Latinos said that the economy was the most important issue, followed by education, healthcare and national security. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The housing market collapse and the decline in the construction industry, in particular, have left many Latinos out of work, Lopez said.

“It’s not that immigration has fallen off the radar entirely,” Lopez said. “It’s that other issues have become relatively more important.”

The Pew researchers, who interviewed 1,540 Latinos nationwide in November, did not ask specifically about immigration policy or potential legislation. Past studies have shown that Latinos disapproved of the aggressive immigration tactics of the Bush administration.

Although immigration didn’t make the top of the list of issues, 88% of all Latinos did cite it as important, according to the study.

The issue had even more resonance for foreign-born Latinos — 99% said it was important, compared with 75% of U.S.-born Latinos.

Civil rights and immigrant rights groups are calling on Obama to push a reform package that would provide a path toward legalization for millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

Though the advocates acknowledge that economic recovery must come first, they say that immigration reform should be addressed this year.

Paco Fabian, a spokesman for the advocacy group America’s Voice, said it was understandable that the country’s financial situation was the No. 1 priority.

“We all suffer the same consequences from our struggling economy,” he said.

The Pew study also tracked Latino participation in the recent election, finding that more than one-fifth of Latinos said that 2008 was the first time they had voted in a U.S. election.

--Anna Gorman

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