Over the weekend, Marco Rubio, the Republican Senator from Florida, appeared on all of the Sunday political shows — as well as the talk shows on Telemundo and Univision — to stump for an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws. A bill is expected to be introduced to Congress this week.
Rubio's talk-show marathon came the day before a new survey by the polling firm Latino Decisions found that a strong majority of unauthorized Latino immigrants said they were optimistic about the chances for new immigration laws.
Nearly 90 percent of the respondents also said that if immigration rules were changed to let them apply for citizenship, that they would do so. But a February study of Mexican immigrants — who make up more than half of all the immigrants in the U.S. — found that relatively few people who were eligible to apply for citizenship tried to do so.
The survey asked about 400 unauthorized immigrants about their family ties in the United States.
The poll found that the undocumented population is deeply enmeshed in American society. Eighty-two percent have relatives who are either U.S. citizens or have legal permanent resident status. Fifty percent said they had children who were born here (which makes them U.S. citizens).
"Undocumented immigrants are overwhelmingly in family environments, not in isolation," the report said.
Matt Barreto, a political scientist at the University of Washington and the founder (?) of Latino Decisions, told Code Switch last week that the majority of last year's Latino electorate personally know someone who is undocumented. That's one reason why he said the way politicians — and Republicans in particular — have to adjust their language on immigration.
"They say, 'we like llegal immigrants — it's the illegals who are the problem," Barreto said. And [Latino voters] say, 'hey, that's my mom."
P.S.- Latino Decisions called the poll of unauthorized immigrants "groundbreaking," which might also mean "untested." So we asked Barreto about the poll's methodology, and how the poll could fairly represent or reflect the opinions of a group that likes to keep a low profile.
His response is below:
The sample is pretty balanced across demographics, including very high percentage of people who earn less than $20,000 per year, and very high percentage of people with less than 8th grade education. Typically the sort of selection effects you are talking about would have spillover to the demographics and give you a sample of much higher socioeconomic status, but that was not the case here. I looked at the crosstabs of the citizenship question, and it is very consistent across the socioeconomic spectrum. We dialed both landline and cell-only households, including up to 10 call-backs per number, to increase response rate among harder to reach households.
Given that 85% of the sample say they have a family member who is a U.S. citizen (including 62% for whom it is their U.S. born children) - it is not hard at all for me to believe that 87% want to apply for citizenship.