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U.S.-Born Latinos Oppose Illegal Immigration

AP | April 11 2006

PHOENIX -- Contrary to scenes of hundreds of thousands of united Latinos marching across the country in support of immigration reform, a sizable number of the ethnic group opposes the marches and strongly objects to illegal immigration.

Their voices have largely been muffled by the massive protests, however, which continued Monday as thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of cities nationwide.

Those protesting are voicing their support of a Senate bill that would give an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the country a chance for U.S. citizenship.

"That's the objective of the marches — to give the impression that all Latinos are for allowing the illegals to become citizens," said Phoenix resident Lionel De La Rosa. "Well, I'm not."

The 71-year-old Texas native and Vietnam veteran said he favors punitive measures more in line with the immigration bill passed by the U.S. House in December that would have made it a felony to be in the United States illegally.
"I'm for that 100 percent," he said. "As far as my Latino friends are concerned, they all agree on this."

A 2005 survey by the Pew Hispanic Center found that Latinos in general have favorable attitudes toward immigrants and immigration. But when it comes to illegal immigration, significant numbers have negative views of undocumented immigrants.

The survey found those feelings are strongest among middle-class and middle-age U.S.-born Latinos.

And though 68 percent of Latinos said they believe undocumented immigrants help the economy by providing low-cost labor, nearly a quarter felt undocumented immigrants hurt the economy by driving down wages.

U.S.-born Latinos looked even less favorably toward undocumented immigrants than foreign-born Latinos. More than a third of U.S.-born Latinos said undocumented immigrants hurt the economy, compared with just 15 percent of foreign-born Latinos.

Latinos also are divided over whether to allow undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship, the survey found.

Though 88 percent of foreign-born Latinos favored allowing undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship, a smaller number of U.S.-born Latinos, 78 percent, said undocumented immigrants should be allowed to do so.

Though views such as De La Rosa's are common among Latinos, they are rarely reflected among Latino leaders, said Steven Camarota, research director at the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C. think tank that favors greater restrictions on immigration.

"It's easy to tap into the views of the intellectual class, but harder to tap0into the views of the common folks," he said.

And because so much of the debate over illegal immigration comes off as anti-Hispanic, Latinos who favor greater restrictions on immigration are often reluctant to speak out.

"That's extremely off-putting," Camarota said. "Whatever their views, they keep it to themselves."

Many Latinos fear being ostracized for their negative views of undocumented immigrants, said Phoenix resident Frank Barrios, 64.

"There are a lot of Hispanics that are upset about the undocumented just the same way as the Anglo population," said Barrios, a third-generation Mexican-American who traces his family's roots in Arizona to the 1870s. "That group is larger than many people would believe."

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