GUY RAZ, host:
This week's development in Arizona are certainly giving immigration advocates pause, but across the country, recent immigrants actually seem to trust the U.S. government more than those born here in America. That's according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center and it's the focus of today's installment in the NPR series on Trust in Government.
NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports from Southern California.
MANDALIT DEL BARCO: On the main drag in the community east of Los Angeles, you can buy cowboy sombreros and discount quinceanera dresses for sweet 15 parties. And at one popular Oaxacan restaurant, you can order specialties like cemitas, tlayudas and chiladas, sandwiches, pizzas and spicy beer cocktails rimmed with chili salt and ground agave worms.
Ms. BRICIA LOPEZ (Owner, Cemitas y Clayudas Pal Cabron): The restaurant is called Pal Cabron. It's fast food from the south of Mexico.
DEL BARCO: 25-year-old owner Bricia Lopez teamed with her younger brother Fernando to open the restaurant just last year, right around the time she became an American citizen.
Ms. LOPEZ: You know, it really is the land of the free. You know, you're able to do so many things in this country that people that maybe who were born here and didn't have to go through that struggle don't appreciate.
DEL BARCO: Lopez was 10 when she emigrated from Oaxaca with her parents. In Los Angeles, the family opened what's become a very successful chain of restaurants. Lopez says she saw her parents' American dream - and hers - come true. That's part of what makes her so patriotic as a new U.S. citizen.
Ms. LOPEZ: Coming here was very different for me. Coming from a country or a state where, you know, there's a lot corruption, a lot of money being stolen from, you know, the poor. Like I really seen it firsthand, where people go with, like, these government officials go into little towns in Oaxaca and literally give them money for their votes. So you literally buy a vote. You can't do that here.
DEL BARCO: Lopez says she doesn't agree with absolutely everything the U.S. government does: She hates how the DMV works, and she would really love immigrants be given amnesty. But Lopez says she truly believes the government cares about its people.
In that sense, her views are right in line with those surveyed by the Pew Center.
Mr. MARK HUGO LOPEZ (Associate Director, Pew Hispanic Center): About 32 percent of immigrant-Americans said that they were basically content with the federal government, while only 15 percent of native-born Americans said the same.
DEL BARCO: Mark Hugo Lopez is associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center. He says most of the 194 immigrants randomly surveyed by phone live in the West or Southwest, and most of them are young and were born in Mexico.
Mr. LOPEZ: Thirty-one percent of immigrants said that they had trusted the government of Washington always or most of the time, versus 21 percent of people who were born in the United States. Also, more than half of immigrant Americans said that, yes, the federal government is affecting the way things are going positively, whereas only 22 percent of those who were born in the U.S. said the same.
DEL BARCO: Lopez says that echoes the result of another survey the center did last month. They found foreign-born Latinos much more enthusiastic about participating in the U.S. Census.
Mr. LOPEZ: Immigrants are just more likely to be positive about the government, partly because they've made a decision to come to the U.S. and that may be influencing their opinions.
DEL BARCO: In Huntington Park, you'll find Latinos frustrated by the recession and anxious about promised immigration reform. But you'll also find people, like Peruvian-born Fidel Villar(ph), who are grateful for the opportunities they've had in this country.
Mr. FIDEL VILLAR: (Spanish spoken)
DEL BARCO: I believe in the government, he says. It's helped me.
Emilia Acua(ph), from Mexico City, says she appreciates the free education she gets here, but she doesn't trust the U.S. government 100 percent.
Ms. EMILIA ACUA: (Spanish spoken)
DEL BARCO: Same for 32-year-old Luis Garcia(ph), who is hoping to become a U.S. citizen.
Mr. LUIS GARCIA: I guess the only one that I'm trusting right now is our President right now, hopefully.
DEL BARCO: You don't trust anybody else in government.
Mr. GARCIA: No.
DEL BARCO: Do you trust any government?
Mr. GARCIA: No. Just my mom and my dad.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. GARCIA: Just my mom and dad - those are my government.
DEL BARCO: In this way, Garcia could be just like many native-born Americans.
Mandalit Del Barco, NPR News.
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