October 11, 2012

Latino Voters Support Obama by 3-1 Ratio, But Are Less Certain than Others about Voting

VI. Latinos and Immigration Policy

In mid-June 2012, President Barack Obama announced a new program that would shield young unauthorized immigrants from deportation and allow them to apply for temporary but renewable work permits. The program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, provides relief from deportation unauthorized immigrants younger than 30 who were brought into the country as children and who are currently enrolled in school or have obtained a high school diploma or GED.11

According to Pew Hispanic Center estimates, up to 1.7 million unauthorized youth could potentially qualify for this program (Passel and Lopez, 2012), with about 85% of potential beneficiaries being of Hispanic origin. After the first 43 days of the program, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reported that it had received more than 100,000 applications, with most in the last stages of review and 29 confirmed approvals (Preston, 2012).

According to the Pew Hispanic survey, fully 89% of all Latinos—and 86% of Latino registered voters—say they approve of this new immigration program. A majority (63%) of the general public also approves of the new deferred action program, though the share that does so is notably lower than it is among Latinos.12

Among Latinos, support for the program is widespread. Some 93% of foreign-born Latinos and 85% of the native born say they approve of the program. Additionally, Latinos whose primary language is Spanish have a stronger approval rate of the program (95%) than those who speak English as their primary language (82%).

Among Latino registered voters, fully 95% who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party approve of the program, while a much smaller majority (60%) of those who identify with or lean toward the Republican Party approve of it. Latino registered voters who believe the Latino vote will have a “major impact” in the election approve of the program by a wider margin than those who believe it will have a “minor impact”—92% versus 71%. Latino registered voters who are satisfied with the country’s direction also have a higher rate of approval of the program than those who are dissatisfied—93% versus 80%.

Many Latinos say they know someone who has applied for the new program. According to the Pew Hispanic survey, three-in-ten (31%) Latino adults say they know someone who has applied or is planning to apply. Among Latino registered voters, 26% say they know someone who might be eligible for the program and has applied or is planning to do so.

Hispanics who are foreign born are more likely than those who are native born to say they personally know someone who has applied for the program or is planning to—37% versus 24%.

Among the foreign born, those who do not hold U.S. citizenship and are not legal permanent residents are most likely to say they know someone who has applied or is planning to. Almost half (48%) of those who are neither citizens nor residents say they know someone in these circumstances, compared with 37% of foreign-born Latinos who are legal residents and 28% of foreign-born naturalized Latinos.

Deportations and Detainments

Deportations13 have reached record levels under President Obama, rising to an average of nearly 400,000 per year since 2009 (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2012).14 In 2011, the latest year for which figures are available, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reports that 392,000 immigrants were deported. Among them, 97% are Hispanic.

According to the Pew Hispanic survey, one-quarter (26%) of adult Latinos say they personally know someone who has been deported or detained by the federal government in the last year. Among Latino registered voters, 22% say they know someone who has been detained or deported in the past year.

Among immigrant Hispanics who hold U.S. citizenship, 22% say they personally know someone who has been detained or deported by the federal government in the past year. By contrast, three-in-ten legal resident Hispanics (29%) and Hispanics who are foreign born but do not hold U.S. citizenship and are not a legal resident of the U.S. (32%) say they personally know someone who has been detained or deported in the past year.

  1. For more detailed on the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, see Passel and Lopez (2012).
  2. See Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 2012c.
  3. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security uses the term “removal” rather than “deportations” to describe the actions of its Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to expel a foreign national from the U.S.
  4. In June 2011, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security started implementing a new set of guidelines for processing deportable immigrants, focusing its removal efforts on cases of higher priority to the agency—people who had recently arrived, were convicted criminals or were fugitives (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 2011). According to these guidelines, immigrants who lack a criminal record or a prior order of removal and who have ties to their communities or were brought in as children should not be processed for deportation.