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Pew Hispanic Center Report Sheds Light On Ilegal Immigration Debate

Written by Andrea Whiting, HispanicBusiness.com on 04 May 2010.

controversial illegal immigration bill in Arizona, a Pew Hispanic Center reportOn the heels of a controversial illegal immigration bill in Arizona, a Pew Hispanic Center report released this week sheds some new light on the effectiveness of immigration efforts, as well as the Hispanic experience in America.

Arizona's decision to pass SB 1070 – a law which will authorize local authorities to verify the immigration status of anyone they even suspect of being in the United States illegally, has sparked nationwide attention.

Though The Pew Research Center completed the survey and report prior to SB 1070 being made into law, its findings reveal what many had already suspected: Americans believe Hispanics are the target of racial discrimination more often than other major racial or ethnic groups.

Specifically, nearly one in four (23%) Americans believe "Hispanics are discriminated against 'a lot' in society today." This marks a change from 2001, when the racial/ethnic group most discriminated against were blacks.

In the fact sheet, titled Pew Social and Demographic Trends 2010, the group points out that this law has "generated sharp debate between advocates who say it is needed to combat illegal immigration and opponents who say it is an infringement on civil liberties and an invitation to racial/ethnic profiling of Hispanics by the police."

The Pew report found that Hispanics are, in fact, the ethnic group most likely to be illegal immigrants. According to the report, in 2008 there were an estimated 11.9 million undocumented immigrants residing in the United States. Of this number, three out of four (76%) were Hispanic.

A separate Pew Hispanic Center survey, taken in 2008, revealed that more than half (57%) of Latinos worry that they, a family member, or a close friend could be deported. A separate statistic from the Pew Hispanic Center's 2008 National Survey of Latinos revealed that "one in ten Hispanics had been been stopped by the police or other authorities and asked about their immigration status in the year prior to the survey." Particularly interesting: native and foreign born Hispanics were equally likely to have said this.

And will SB 1070 help soothe the often-tumultuous relationship between Hispanics and law enforcement? According to the same 2008 survey, fewer than half of all Latinos believe Hispanics are treated fairly by police officers in their community.

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