Union Tribune

December 18, 2002 


Gap seen between public, leaders on immigration concerns
Curbs on illegal flow a priority for many


By JERRY KAMMER 
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE 

WASHINGTON There is a large gap between public and elite opinion on immigration, according to an analysis of polling data released yesterday.

Sixty percent of the public classified large-scale immigration as a critical threat to the vital interests of the United States, while just 14 percent of the leaders shared that concern, according to a Chicago Council on Foreign Relations survey analyzed by the Center for Immigration Studies. The center said the data bolster its position that limits should be placed on immigration.

The survey also found that 70 percent of the public said cutting back on illegal immigration should be a "very important" goal of the United States, compared with 22 percent of the leaders.

Another study released yesterday had results that could assuage some Americans' fears of Latino immigration.

The study by the Pew Hispanic Center and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that Latino immigrants embrace English, adopt U.S. optimism and believe they have better opportunities to get ahead in their adopted home.

"To the extent that some people think Latinos want to remain apart and that they are forming a population that is organizing itself to be separate from the American population, this survey provides a lot of evidence to the contrary," said Roberto Suro of the Pew Hispanic Center, which chronicles the growing influence of the nation's rapidly growing Hispanic populations.

In the 2000 census, 35.3 million people identified themselves as
Hispanic, up 58 percent from the 22.4 million who did so 10
years earlier.

Steve Camarota, research director at the Center for Immigration Studies, said illegal immigration adds 300,000 to 400,000 newcomers annually. "The public wants something done about illegal immigration," Camarota said.

The Pew-Kaiser study of Latino attitudes found little interest in building a monolithic Hispanic culture in America.

Eighty-five percent of the respondents said Hispanics from different countries have "separate and distinct cultures," while 14 percent said Hispanics share a common culture.

An even larger majority 89 percent said adult Latino immigrants need to learn English to succeed in the United States. And 80 percent said they were confident their children would get a better education than the parents had.

Twenty-eight percent of those surveyed said they found moral values better in the United States than in their country of origin, while 36 percent said they were better where they were born.

The study also found the immigrants' attitudes in certain areas change over time, as the immigrants gradually acquire fluency in English and adopt American attitudes.

For example, Suro cited a fading of the fatalism he said is a common feature of life in Latin America. The survey asked whether immigrants agreed or disagreed with the proposition "that it doesn't do any good to plan for the future because you don't have any control over it."

While 59 percent of the Spanish-dominant Latinos accepted that proposition, 24 percent of those who were English-dominant agreed.