WASHINGTON – It is harder to be Latino in America than it was before Donald Trump was elected, according to a new survey from the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.
Nearly half of Hispanics say the situation has worsened for people of their ethnicity in the past year – up from about a third just after the 2016 elections. A similar percentage are insecure about their place in the United States with Trump as president, and more than six in 10 are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country – the highest rate since the Great Recession.
The survey – of citizens and noncitizens, immigrants and native-born people – comes in the final days before the midterm elections as the Trump administration has moved to curb both legal and illegal immigration and is threatening to close the southwest border entirely to stop a caravan of Central American migrants hoping to seek asylum in the United States.
Two-thirds of Hispanics say the government’s actions – which include lowering the bar for deportations, a now-rescinded effort to separate families at the border, scaling back protections for immigrants brought to the United States as children and reversing parts of the Affordable Care Act – have been harmful to Hispanics.
They describe an anxiety that is increasingly familiar to Eyhvy Osorio, 41, of suburban Prince George’s County, Md. Osorio has been in the United States legally since she left Guatemala as a child but has grown more worried about her own status and that of her undocumented relatives since Trump took office.
“I don’t even know how to advise them anymore,” said Osorio, recalling a time when a relative needed surgery but was too scared to seek medical attention. “In my mind, I know they should be safe going to a hospital, but I can’t tell them that for certain. These days, anything can happen.”
Though political engagement varies among subgroups, the survey found that Latinos are generally more interested in and focused on the midterm elections than they have been in the past. Latinos historically turn out at lower rates than other groups of voters – with still-lower turnout in nonpresidential years – but the survey found that 52 percent of the nation’s 29 million eligible Hispanic voters are thinking and talking about the midterms, up sharply from 29 percent in 2014.
“Latinos are poised to turn out in bigger numbers, but I don’t know what will happen,” said survey author and researcher Mark Hugo Lopez, Pew’s global migration and demography director. “The final pieces to increase the Latino vote may not be in place.”
Notable partisan, demographic and generational differences divide groups of Latinos, with nearly three in four Hispanic women dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States, compared with half of Hispanic men.
Among the 27 percent of Hispanic adults who identify as or lean Republican, roughly six in 10 approve of Trump’s performance, compared with fewer than one in 10 Latino Democrats. U.S.-born Latinos are considerably more confident about their place in this country than their foreign-born counterparts, although four in 10 of those born here also say they have serious concerns now that Trump is president.
While the number of Latinos born outside the country who say they would migrate again declined from 79 percent to 70 percent, the overwhelming majority of Hispanics continue to see the United States as a place of opportunity.
Traditionally, Latinos have reported feeling more optimistic than other demographic groups about life in the United States and prospects for their families. But in the past three years, the share of Hispanics who expect their children to be better off financially than they are declined by 18 points – including drops among both Republicans and Democrats, Lopez said.
Law student Isabel Mendoza was brought to North Carolina from Mexico by her parents two decades ago. Even though they were undocumented, they never discussed going back. Now, however, that option is part of the family contingency plan.
“The fear of deportation has never been so in my face as it is now,” said Mendoza, who is protected from deportation by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which the Trump administration is trying to terminate.
Immigrant arrests and deportations of longtime residents have surged under Trump, heightening fear and mistrust of law enforcement in Latino communities, advocates say.
Trump is fighting in court to end DACA, which has provided work permits and protections for nearly 800,000 young immigrants brought to the United States as children. He is seeking to strip temporary protected status – a designation that allows people from specific countries to live and work in the United States without fear of removal – from hundreds of thousands from Haiti, Sudan, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
Nearly four in 10 Latinos said they had experienced one of five types of discrimination in the past year, according to the Pew survey, such as being told to go back to their countries or mistreated for things such as speaking Spanish or displaying symbols of Hispanic identity. An equal number said someone had expressed support for them during that period because they are Hispanic.
– The Pew survey was conducted July 26 to Sept. 9 among a random national sample of 1,501 adults who identify as Hispanic or Latino, reached on cell and landline phones. Interviews were conducted in Spanish and English; the margin of sampling error for overall results is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.