Sunday, April 24, 2011

Latinos dissatisfied with both political parties

There is a significant number who think that neither party is very concerned with its relationship with Latinos. 

La Opinión, News Report, Pilar Marrero, Translated by Elena Shore

Latinos Dissatisfied With Both Political Parties
One-third of Latino registered voters believe that neither of the two major political parties in the United States is concerned about reaching them and many are undecided about whom to vote for in the 2012 presidential elections, according to the most recent Impremedia/Latino Decisions poll.

“Recently, with the new census figures and the 2012 presidential election around the corner, they’ve stopped talking about the importance of the Latino vote, especially in critical states,” said Matt Barreto, director of the poll.

“But… what if a significant number of Latinos think neither party is doing a good job? I think here we can see a significant percentage of undecided voters and of people who potentially might not go out and vote,” said Barreto.

The poll asked voters’ opinions of the effectiveness of the Democratic and Republican Parties’ communication with Latinos. The pollsters asked this question in February and again in April. Fifty-two percent in February and 47 percent in April said the Democratic Party was doing a good job, results that aren’t too different but that aren’t very impressive either, and “that are going in the wrong direction for Democrats,” said Barreto.

There is, however, a significant number who think that neither party is very concerned with its relationship with Latinos: 33 percent, or one-third, don’t think either Democrats or Republicans are making much of an effort.

“When you look at who that 33 percent is, you realize that many are undecided about who they’ll vote for next year,” said the pollster. “In 2010 we did a similar poll and saw that these are people who, if they remain undecided, tend to have high levels of absenteeism. The effect of this on Democrats is important.”

Anthony Chavez of San Francisco voted for Obama in 2008, but is now undecided.

“I don’t think he’s achieved much progress. He doesn’t do anything but give in to the Republicans and he hasn’t fulfilled many of its promises,” said Chavez.

According to the poll results, the brand of the Republican Party is severely tarnished among a vast majority – 66 percent – of Latino voters, and more than half of them believe the party is directly “hostile” to Latinos.

"The Latino voters’ dissatisfaction with the Republican Party, according to this poll, transcends generations, income and education levels. In fact, the more assimilated Latinos are in the country, the worse their image of that party seems to be,” said
Professor Gary Segura, a political scientist at Stanford University.

Sixty-six to 62 percent of Latino voters – the number went down slightly from February to April – believe the Republican Party is “hostile” toward the Latino community or that “they don’t care much about them.” Only 20 percent say the party is doing a good job in reaching out to the community – the same 20 percent, it seems, that tends to be and vote Republican, Barreto said.

But the worst image of Republicans was found among Latino voters who are more assimilated. For example, 25 percent of Latino immigrants think Republicans are doing a good job in reaching the community, but only 17 percent of U.S.-born Latinos thinks so.

“It’s the opposite of what you would imagine -- that as they progress economically and become more assimilated, they would tend to move toward the Republican Party,” said Segura. “Something is happening that is preventing this from taking place.”

This bad image is obvious in the answers of respondents who were asked why, despite the economic situation and immigration problems, they will continue to vote for Democrats.

“I simply don’t want a Republican in the White House again,” said Silvia Portillo of Alexandria, Va. “Republiicans are only looking to benefit the rich.”

But this doesn’t mean Democrats should rest on their laurels. Only half of Latino voters believe the Democratic Party is concerned with connecting with them and this number seems to be dropping, from the polling in February to two months later in April.

“There is a strong correlation between this image of the party and their intent to vote. I think that less than half is pretty small for the Democrats,” said Barreto.

President Obama’s approval rating remains high and relatively stable, but declined slightly in the past two months: from 73 percent in February to 70 percent in April, a result that is within the margin of error and does show much of a change.

But Latinos’ intent to vote remains relatively stagnant. In the first survey in this series, only 43 percent said they were sure that they would vote for Obama in November 2012; this time 41 percent said this. In both cases, another 12 and 14 percent said they thought they would vote for him but they weren’t sure.

Although this figure is low compared to the level of Latinos normally expected to vote Democratic (a minimum of between 65 and 70 percent), the situation does not translate into more votes for Republicans. In this sense, only 20 percent of voters are sure or think they will vote for a Republican, one of the lowest numbers seen for this party.

When it comes to issues of concern to these voters, immigration fell slightly between February and April: 47 percent in February, compared to 36 percent in April, think this is the main issue they’d like to see action on by the president and Congress. But the issue continues to be in first place, followed very closely by the economy and jobs, with 33 percent.

Latino Decisions interviewed 500 registered voters between March 24 and April 2 in the 21 states with the highest Latino populations, representing 94 percent of the electorate. Respondents were selected at random from voter lists. The margin of error is 4.38 percent and interviews were conducted in English or Spanish according to the preference of the respondent.

Census Bureau change will identify language spoken at home

In media coverage about the US Census, language has not been mentioned because it is not one of the ten questions on the new short form. 

By Ana Celia Zentlla, Guest Commentary (First appeared on the National Institute for Latino Policy Newsletter)
Last week, after years of urging, the Census Bureau released this statement:

Dr. Ana Celia Zentilla
In response to concerns expressed by data user groups, the Census Bureau decided to eliminate the term "linguistic isolation" for data products issued starting in 2011. We have changed the terminology to one that we feel is more descriptive and less stigmatizing. The phrase that will appear in all new products will be "Households in which no one 14 and over speaks English only or speaks a language other than English at home and Speaks English 'Very Well.'" (April 18, 2011 email from David S. Johnson, Chief, Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division of the U.S. Census Bureau)

Why is this an important victory? Here's the background: In the extensive media coverage of the 2010 US Census, language has not been mentioned because it is not one of the ten questions on the new short form, but the Census Bureau's annual American Community Survey (ACS) includes these three questions: 

(1) Do you speak a language other than English at home? If “Yes”, then (2) What is that language?, and (3) Do you speak English Very Well, Well, Not Well, Not at All?

Based on
the data collected in 2009, it was estimated that 80% of the United States population spoke only English at home, and that of the 20% who spoke another language at home, 55% also spoke English "Very Well." But these percentages obscure the true picture of English proficiency among those who speak another language at home, 62% of whom are Spanish speakers.

The official reports of these statistics help promote linguistic intolerance and racial/ethnic violence by suggesting that newcomers are not learning English. A more accurate portrait would add those who speak English "Well" (20%) to those who speak it "Very Well' (55%), for a total of 75% (not including those who speak only English at home). Among those who speak Spanish at home, adding the 18% who speak English "Well" to the 53% who speak it "Very Well" produces a total of 71% of proficient English speakers.

Most damaging, however, is the
Census Bureau's classification of "individuals and families" as "linguistically isolated . . . if their household is one in which no member 14 years old and over: (1) speaks only English; or (2) speaks a non-English language and speaks English "very well."

The Bureau began labeling those who spoke English "Well", "Not Well" or "Not at All" as "linguistically isolated" in 1990. This was just as Latino and Asian immigrants were changing the complexion of the immigrant flow in the US. It was also a time of a widespread movement to make English the only official language of the USA, prompting an attempt to amend the Constitution (similar legislation is still pending). As of November 2010, 31 states have passed English-only laws.

I was able to encourage several national organizations, including the American Anthropology Association, the American Association for Applied Linguistics, and the Conference on College Composition and Communication, as well as the Census Advisory Committee on the Hispanic Population, chaired by Angelo Falcón, to adopt resolutions against the use of "linguistically isolated." I did so and they agreed because the term is inaccurate, prejudicial and foments linguistic intolerance. Laura Graham and other members of the Task Force on Language and Social Justice of the American Anthropology Association were instrumental in helping explain why the term is inaccurate, prejudicial, and foments linguistic intolerance.

It is impossible to be "linguistically isolated" unless you live without human contact. Also, under the Census Bureau's old term many children under 14 who often speak only English are unfairly labeled as "isolated." Note that all those households where only English is spoken are not considered "linguistically isolated "; only speakers of other languages are demeaned/disparaged in this way.

While we welcome the Census Bureau's decision to eliminate the use of the term"linguistic isolation," their replacement for it is a cumbersome description that is difficult to understand ("Households in which no one 14 and over speaks English only or speaks a language other than English at home and Speaks English 'Very Well'"). In our view, "Emerging Bilingual Households" is more positive than another alternative, "Limited English-Speaking Households," but we welcome other suggestions.

We continue to lobby for more changes that promote social justice regarding language. Those include the addition of a census question about the ability to speak languages other than English, the rejection of "illegal aliens" as a descriptor for undocumented immigrants, the dissemination of accurate data concerning successful bilingual programs, and the end of linguistic profiling on the job, in housing, and in education. Public support is encouraged. Estamos a las órdenes.

An earlier version of this Guest Commentary appeared in the
April 22, 2010 SLA Blog of the Society for Linguistic Anthropology.

About the Author

Ana Celia Zentella is Chair of the Task Force on Language and Social Justice of the American Anthropology Association. She is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Ethnic Studies at University of California at San Diego and one of the foremost researchers in what she has named "anthro-political linguistics." A central figure in the study of U.S. Latin@ varieties of Spanish and English, Spanglish, and language socialization in Latin@ families, she is also a respected critic of the linguistic profiling facilitated by English-only laws and anti- bilingual education legislation. Her book, Growing up Bilingual: Puerto Rican children in New York (Blackwell, 1997) won the Book Prize of the British Association of Applied Linguistics, and the Book Award of the Association of Latina and Latino Anthropologists of the American Anthropology Association. She is the co-author of "Problematic Language Assessment in the US Census" with Bonnie Urciuoli and Laura R Graham, Anthropology News. Volume 48, Issue 6 (September 2007). More recently, she has edited Building on Strength: Language and Literacy in Latino Families and Communities (Columbia TC Press, 2005). Dr. Zentella can be reached at

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Why should CA Latinos support a tax extension?

Latino school children have a 50 percent dropout rate, which is unacceptable and a formula that will negatively impact California's economic future.
By Adrian Perez, Publisher

SACRAMENTO, CA - In 2006, then California Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante (the last Latino elected to a statewide office) with the Latino Journal conducted a series of workshops designed to root-out the issues and identify solutions to address the huge Latino public school dropout rate.  These workshops were in response to a thorough Harvard University Study, which found that unless the state made an effort to curb the Latino dropout rates, it would be facing a major economic disaster.   The result of the workshops was the introduction of legislation and adoption of policies by the California Department of Education to address the growing school dropout concern of Latinos.  Now state budget issues place these accomplishments at risk.

California’s education data shows nearly 1 of every 2 students in public schools to be Latino.  It also shows that Latinos have a 50 percent dropout rate, which is not only unacceptable, but a formula feeding the demise of the state’s future economic status.  

According to a 2009 study conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California, the state needs to invest heavily into the education of Latino children or in-state companies will be forced to increase the importation of an educated workforce.  But, for some reason this stark fact has and continues to escape legislators, the Governor and even education unions because it isn’t event a point of discussion in budget negotiations.  Instead, Bustamante’s and the Latino Journal’s efforts are almost first on the budget chopping block.

During his campaign, Gov. Jerry Brown promised voters that they would have a say on tax extensions or increases.  Although many voters viewed this as a noble act, in reality, they also knew he would be running into a brick wall as did his predecessor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  That brick wall of course is the state’s dysfunctional legislature, of which many are beholden to the public employee unions that got them elected.  

To push Brown and the Democratically controlled legislature to move, the California Teacher’s Association has started running television ads that essentially tell voters to encourage their elected officials to extend taxes without voter approval.  

Is this a wise move?  It is if you look at the alternative of education facing deeper cuts and putting the state’s economic future at risk.  It is not if you recognize that the funding does not guarantee the continuance of programs and policies designed to address Latino school dropout rates.

In these tough economic times, taxpayers want to be assured that their investments will be paying off at a level where it is visible in the near future and tangible in the long term.  Latinos are nearly 40 percent of California’s taxpayers and the frustration of seeing their children failing in school will begin to wear.  To ensure Latino voter support for tax extensions, the Governor, Legislature, and the California Teacher’s Association will need to demonstrate that programs and policies designed to decrease Latino dropout rates and increase graduation rates will remain intact.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hispanic Republican legislator's approach to immigration

HCR 88 calls on Congress to establish a guest worker system which would protect first American workers from competition, but also allow non-citizen economic migrants to come out of the shadows, pay taxes and freely return to their country of origin.

By State Rep. John V. Garza
for The Texas Insider
AUSTIN, TexasThe proliferation of immigration related legislation in the Texas Legislature and across the country is the direct result of the Federal Government’s unwillingness to address the immigration crisis. The power to regulate immigration is without question an exclusive federal power. But due to the federal government’s failure to provide an effective system of immigration, immigration enforcement and border security, state legislatures are left to deal with the effects.

HCR 88 calls on Congress to fix the broken immigration system and address immigration not only as a criminal law issue, but also as an economic issue. This resolution is joint and co-authored by eight (8) members of the Hispanic Republican Conference.

Additionally the resolution faults the current system of immigration for being discriminatory, promoting illegal immigration and for producing a class of vulnerable persons.

Such issues before the Texas Legislature include human tracking, added strain on Health Care and Educational system, employment verification, election integrity and border security.

One of the present flaws in our Federal and State approaches to immigration is that they view illegal immigration as solely a criminal law issue, ignoring its economic causes. As a South Texas Representative, I understand that illegal immigration is predominantly an economic issue. Economic migrants are pushed from their country of origin for economic reasons and drawn into the United States by economic opportunity. A new system of immigration should address the role US employers play in drawing immigrants into the country and the reality that certain sectors of the American economy rely on migrant workers for its labor force. The 1986 amnesty exemplifies what happens when this economic reality is ignored. Prior to amnesty illegal workers were concentrated in certain sectors of the economy.

Following amnesty, they moved into more desirable sectors of the economy leaving a void which was filled by subsequent waves of illegal immigrants. The resolution calls on Congress to establish a guest worker system which would protect first American workers from competition, but also allow non-citizen economic migrants to come out of the shadows, pay taxes and freely return to their country of origin. Those with criminal intent hide among the economic migrants often exploiting them. Addressing the issue of economic migrants will free up law enforcement resources to concentrate on criminals and border security.

There are other problems with the current system of immigration. First and foremost, it has discriminatory country of origin classifications. As of March 2011, Mexicans and Filipinos must wait in excess of 18 years, while Europeans and others wait only 5 for VISA priority dates. HCR 88 calls on Congress to develop a more equitable system of immigration which eliminates country of origin preferences. Additionally, immigrants who have cut in line and violated American immigration laws should not be given amnesty, nor preferential treatment over immigrants who have honestly complied with our immigration laws and waited for an opportunity to immigrate.

All enforcement efforts must respect the civil rights of US Citizens and the US Citizen children of immigrants. “I cannot support any legislation which would result in Hispanic American citizens being treated as a “suspect class” or attempt to remove any right from the US Citizen children of immigrants. In America, children are never held liable for the unlawful actions of their parents.”

Cities which adopt policies against enforcement of immigration laws also contribute to the problem by providing sanctuary for illegal immigrants, employers who hire illegal workers and those who exploit immigrants.

Unfortunately, we can pass all sorts of state laws to try to address the issue and effects of illegal immigration but the reality is that none of them will correct one of the root causes of the problem, our out-dated system of immigration.

A new system of immigration must respect our national sovereignty but also our origins as a country of immigrants. It must provide for strict enforcement of the law, but also allow a means for needed labor in certain sectors of our economy. It must respect the human dignity of the immigrant, and give them a means to share in the American dream and discriminate against no immigrant because of their country of origin.

The following is a quote from President Ronald Reagan, “I . . . have thought of America as a place in the divine scheme of things that was set aside as a promised land . . . [A]nd the price of admission was very simple . . . Any place in the world and any person from these places; any person with the courage, with the desire to tear up their roots, to strive for freedom, to attempt and dare to live in a strange and foreign place, to travel halfway across the world was welcome here . . . I believe that God in shedding his grace on this country has always in this divine scheme of things kept an eye on our land and guided it as a promised land for these people.

Immigration is not a partisan issue. It is a people issue. And as an American and a descendent of immigrants, I believe that we must ensure that America remains a promised land. We need a new system of immigration to address the modern context of immigration, to ensure national security, to protect our economy, to be a welcoming nation and to allow 12 million people in this country to come out of the shadows, pay taxes and allow us to spend out precious tax dollars on fighting the criminal elements on the border.

I thank you for your consideration of this bill and I reserve the right to close.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

U.S. hypocrisy on human rights: Libya vs. Mexico

As American involvement grows in Libya, many are questioning President Barack Obama's recent statements that U.S. involvement is humanitarian in nature.  Yet, there are significant humanitarian issues along the U.S. - Mexico Border that also need to be addressed.  Border Angels' Enrique Morones discusses this here:

As Latinos go, so goes the U.S.

Hispanics are golden, as in golden opportunity.
By Mary Sanchez, The Kansas City Star 

Publisher's Note:  This commentary first appeared in the Kansas City Star.
Pundits have discussed the “browning” of America for a good two decades now. By that they mean the growth and geographic spread of the Latino population in the U.S.

But the unveiling of the latest U.S. Census figures marked a tipping point: Latinos are a demographic that cannot be ignored or taken for granted. Exceeding almost all prior estimates, the number of Hispanic Americans now tops 50 million people, comprising 16 percent of the population. By 2050, they will likely be one-third of the nation’s population.

And that, mi amigo, portends opportunity. So enough talk of “browning.” Let’s rework the lingo. Hispanics are golden, as in golden opportunity. That is, if we seize rather than squander this moment as a country. Our destiny as a nation is tied up with Latinos’ destiny as an ethnic group. All Americans have an interest in seeing them integrated into national life and prospering along with everybody else.

First, we need to get past the misconceptions and generalizations rattling around about Hispanics. The unprecedented 43 percent growth in the Latino population in the last decade did not come primarily from immigration. The largest factor in that increase was childbirths. “Compared with 2000, the Hispanic birth rate increased 14 percent, while both the U.S. population and black birth rates declined 2 percent,” according to a Bloomberg analysis of Census statistics.

So let’s move away from viewing Latinos merely as newcomers. Nearly three in four Hispanics are U.S. citizens, not interlopers “taking” something from America and “our way of life,” as one hears too often from politicians and commentators who have something to gain from frightening listeners.

Latinos, even those several generations removed from their immigrant forebearers, maintain a strong work ethic. A new report out by the U.S. Department of Labor notes Hispanics make up 15 percent of the nation’s workforce, almost equal their proportion of the entire population. Latino men have the highest workforce participation rate of any group.

Soak that in. Hispanics are the worker bees of the nation, and they will continue to be in the future. They’re also highly entrepreneurial. Hispanic-owned companies grew by 43.7 percent from 2002 to 2007, compared to 14.5 percent among other groups. As a relatively young population, they will comprise a larger and larger proportion of the working population, especially as older Americans retire.

Things have changed a bit since the heyday of European immigration a century ago. More and more, to prosper, to enter the middle class, that Holy Grail of the American psyche, you need an education. A college education, ideally.

To thrive, Latinos — like all Americans — need to be educated and trained. Problem is, only 44 percent of Hispanic students finish high school. And even if they get to college, they have lower completion rates. A 2010 report by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation questioned whether the United States would ever reclaim its status as the world’s best-educated country until Hispanics’ success is addressed. It’s simply a matter of the numbers.

Yet, like a rerun of past episodes of anti-immigrant backlash, the current upheaval in the U.S. economy has only seemed to make some Americans more narrow-minded. Movement to undercut, not enhance Latinos’ shift toward solidly middle-class status can be seen in efforts to make English the official language, which often eliminate bridge programs for people still gaining fluency. The same attitude can be seen in instances where aging baby boomers, their children already out of the nest, quash government efforts that aid low-income minority communities with higher proportions of school-age children.

That’s a mood we need to defuse. As Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, put it in a speech to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce: “New Americans didn’t run Wall Street into the ground. New Americans didn’t destroy our savings. Bashing new Americans does nothing to make our economy stronger or win the global competition for jobs and opportunity.” Bravo.

We can fret about the future demographics of the country all we want, but the bottom line is inescapable. As the fortunes of Latinos go, so go the fortunes of the country.

Mary Sanchez is an opinion-page columnist for The Kansas City Star.