Despite their overwhelming disapproval of the Obama administration's record deportation levels, Hispanic voters give the president a substantial lead when matched against potential Republican candidates, according to a new Pew Hispanic Center poll.
In a hypothetical election, Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry would each garner less than one-fourth of the Hispanic vote. The survey, with an error margin of plus or minus 5.2 percentage points for the voter sample, had Obama leading Romney 68-23 and Perry 69-23 among Hispanic voters.
"Many Latinos are aware that deportations are up, and among them the president's approval rating is lower," Mark Lopez, associate director of the Pew Hispanic center, told The Washington Post. "However, even among them, the president wins in head-to-heads against Romney and Perry."
Washington has deported undocumented immigrants in record numbers. In 2009, there were 389,834, 392,862 in 2010, and 396,606 by November 2011. This year, the number is expected to surpass 400,000 for the first time in history.
Which brings up a question: Do Latinos always identify with what are generally referred to as "Latino issues?"
A recent story in The Huffington Post about what 2011 meant for Latinos in the U.S. got this comment:
"Illegal immigration status is NOT an issue for most Americans of Hispanic cultural backgrounds."
Is this true? According to a June 2011 study by Latino Decisions, 53 percent of registered Latinos voters in the U.S. "know somebody who is undocumented, and 1 in every 4 Latino voters answer yes to 'Do you know of any person or family who has faced detention or deportation for immigration reasons?'"
Reporter Pilar Marrero then added: "This topic is so significant that 51% of Latino voters consider the immigration issue (comprehensive reform, the DREAM Act) as the most important issue currently facing their community. On the other hand, 35% said the most important issues were the economy and creating jobs. Education came in third at 18%."
According to the new Pew survey, half of the respondents identified jobs as extremely important, followed by education at 49 percent and health care at 45 percent. These three issues were the same ones Hispanic registered voters identified as most important in 2010 and 2008, the survey found. One-third, or 33 percent of Latino voters said immigration was extremely important, a percentage unchanged since 2010.
Another poll by ImpreMedia/Latino Decisions asked Hispanics, "Generally speaking, what are the most important issues facing the Latino community that you think Congress and the President should address?"
In June, 51 percent of the respondents said Immigration reform/DREAM Act, followed by Create more jobs/unemployment with 18 percent and, finally, Fix the Economy (generic) with 17 percent.
In October, two months ago, Immigration topped the list with 42 percent of the respondents, then jobs at 30 percent.
Hardly "NOT an issue."
The new Pew poll found that one-quarter, or 24 percent, of all Latinos said they know someone who had been deported or detained in the past year.
Nine-in-ten Latinos, or 91 percent, said they supported the federal DREAM Act, proposed legislation that would permit young undocumented immigrants to become legal residents if they go to college or serve in the military for two years, the survey found.
Another study published in November by scholars at the University of Southern California, precisely, tackles the issue of Latino identity, trying to establish "why many people with Latin American ancestry do not choose a Latino ethnic identification on U.S. Census surveys." The paper was published initially in Social Science Research magazine and it's authors are Amon Emeka and Jody Agius Vallejo.
The paper recognizes the fact that many Latinos from "first, second and later generation" are "not identifying ethnically as Latino as they integrate into the fabric of American society." It is based on the American Community Survey or ACS, a U.S. Census Bureau study.
Emeka and Agius Vallejo show that 6 percent of "the 44.1 million U.S. residents who declared Hispanic or Latin American ancestry" in 2011, only 6 percent "do not ethnically identify as Spanish/Hispanic/Latino." That's about 2.5 million residents.
A possible reason for this discrepancy, according to the scholars from USC's Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Science, is some "confusion with the terms ethnicity, ancestry and race," another may be that many belong to more than one ethnicity. For example, President Obama, they say, defined himself as "black" in the Census, despite being half white.
The study provides clues about how the topics of integration, assimilation and identity are in a constant state of change and development for the Latino community.
Still, 94 percent of the 44.1 million Hispanic residents identified themselves as either Spanish, Hispanics or Latinos.