- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hispanic-Americans increasingly see illegal immigration as a problem for their own community, according to a new report that found a significant number of Latinos who say it’s causing them to suffer discrimination.

The Pew Hispanic Center, which surveyed hundreds of Latinos to produce the report, released Thursday, also found that incidents of discrimination have not increased despite a more widespread fear that it could happen.

“Despite Latinos’ rising concerns about suffering from a backlash triggered by illegal immigration, the new survey finds no increase over past years in the share of Latinos who report that they or someone they know have been targets of discrimination or have been stopped by the authorities and asked about their immigration status,” the center said.

Just 5 percent of those surveyed said they have been stopped by police and asked about their immigration status, down from 9 percent in an earlier survey. Thirty-four percent said they or a close friend or family member have experienced discrimination, which is similar to a 2009 report in which 32 percent reported discrimination.

Hispanics were divided on the effects of illegal immigrants, with 31 percent saying they are a net negative on Latinos in the U.S., 29 percent saying they are a benefit and 30 percent saying they have no effect. Just three years ago, 50 percent of Hispanics said illegal immigrants had a positive effect.

The numbers come as political analysts question the impact Hispanic voters will have on this year’s elections.

Clarissa Martinez De Castro, director of immigration and national campaigns for the National Council of La Raza, said Latino voters are disappointed by the lack of improvement in the jobs and housing pictures but also are being mobilized as a response to immigration crackdown efforts.

“What we have also seen, based on polling and working at the community level, is that the growing concern over anti-Latino sentiment, anti-immigrant sentiment in the country is energizing people into taking a stand,” she said. “Which of these factors wins out, we’ll have to see.”

Since the failure of an immigration bill in 2007, NCLR and other Hispanic groups have argued that the policy debate has turned anti-Hispanic. NCLR even launched a campaign called We Can Stop the Hate to try to fight back.

Indeed, some of this year’s campaigns have become quite heated over immigration. In Nevada, Republican Senate nominee Sharron Angle has repeatedly attacked incumbent Sen. Harry Reid for supporting bills to legalize illegal immigrants.

Meanwhile, even though a judge has halted parts of Arizona’s new law cracking down on illegal immigration, it continues to dominate the political discussion in that state and has bled into other states, where lawmakers have talked about copying the legislation.

NCLR released its own report Thursday saying Hispanics could play a decisive role if they turn out and vote to protest the tone of the debate.

Still, Pew’s findings that actual discrimination has not increased stand in contrast to the growing fears.

“What this survey tells us is there are reasons to be concerned, but the idea that somehow there’s a wave of discrimination against Hispanics generally is false. Hispanics tell us that’s false,” said Steven A. Camarota, research director at the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports stricter immigration limits. “It just shows the disservice that the National Council of La Raza [is] doing by feeding that fear, even though what Hispanics are telling us is they are not facing increased discrimination.”

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