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Jun 04, 2009

Hispanics are changing the face of America, and America is changing Hispanics.

By Alan Stoga

First consider a few extraordinary facts.

Over the last two decades, America’s Hispanic population grew by an average of 4,650 people per day.

Today, Hispanics account for 15 percent of the country’s population, 20 percent of people under age 19 and 42 percent of those enrolled in public schools.

In 2050, according to census projections, 63 million Americans will be of Hispanic origin, accounting for more than one-quarter of the total population.

Now, consider two alternative trajectories offered by Henry G. Cisneros, former mayor of San Antonio and former housing secretary under President Bill Clinton. In the first, Latinos become solidly middle class, “contributing new creative energies and youthful skills, engaged in building a new American future.” In the other, Latinos remain a “large, undereducated, under-compensated, alienated and divisive force in American society.”

The difference: an America that prospers in the 21st century, or one that fades into decline. As Thomas H. Castro, a prominent Mexican-American business leader puts it, “the well being of America is going to depend on the well being of Hispanics.”


Habla Ingles?

Cisneros is an optimist. “What is going to happen is that Hispanics are going to be more visible, more notable, more part of the American story like never before,” he says.

Today, however, the 46 million Hispanics who live in the U.S. are poorer, less educated, and less healthy than other Americans. The poverty rate (PDF) among Hispanics is 20 percent, compared to 12 percent for the whole country. One-quarter of Hispanics have less than a high school education (PDF), and many are functionally illiterate. Almost half of Hispanics report they do not speak English (PDF) well, if at all.

Like earlier immigrants, Hispanics generally start at the bottom of the economic pyramid. Unlike earlier immigrants, conventional wisdom seems to be that they will stay there.

That fails to account for two things: the massive size of recent immigration and the dramatic differences between foreign- and native-born Hispanics. “The typical immigrant comes from Mexico, Central or South America as an unmarried adult,” says Richard Fry, a researcher at the Pew Hispanic Center. They typically have no children or education.

“But the second generation, like most second generations, has both the drive of immigrants and the opportunities of people born here,” according to Tamar Jacoby, president and CEO of ImmigrationWorks USA.

The path into the lower middle class is often through small business ownership. “Go to your favorite local coffee shop and figure out who owns it now. Chances are it is a Mexican who started out some years ago washing dishes or behind the grill,” she adds.

The real difference is language. According to a recent survey, almost all Latinos recognize that English fluency is critical to being perceived as American. And that is exactly what the children of immigrants do: one-third of Hispanics under age 18 speak only English and another 50 percent speak English very well.

That’s a good sign, since Hispanics are expected to comprise almost one-third of the population by the middle of this century—second only to whites who will no longer constitute the majority.


“The New Whipping Boys”

Forget that Hispanics were here long before the Pilgrims landed, or that there are tenth-generation Hispanic families whose American heritage predates the Declaration of Independence.

What have they done for us lately?

Castro says Hispanics are good for the economy. “Where there are no Hispanic immigrants you find dying communities, poor tax base, shuttered main streets and homes that are falling in value—even before the crisis."

Unfortunately, you also find higher crime rates, at least in popular perception. Reality is a bit different: cities with the largest immigrant populations have had the largest declines in crime rates. Part of the reason is that immigrants—especially the undocumented—commit fewer crimes, since they risk deportation.

However, this changes the longer Hispanics remain in the country. With higher school dropout rates and more poverty come higher crime and incarceration rates (PDF). Hispanics account for 19 percent of inmates in state prisons, but only a 15 percent share of the general population. Moreover, between 2000 and 2007, Hispanics made up more than one-third of the 200,000 increase (PDF) in the combined state and federal prison population. (That number is inflated by rising immigration offenses.)

Arguably, the driver is poverty and not immigration. Jacoby insists that poor Hispanics commit fewer crimes than others who have low educations and low-skilled jobs.

On the other hand, they experience more crime than others, both because they are poor and because they are often wary of reporting crimes for fear of discrimination. For example, almost 50 percent of Hispanics in a recent study by the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that employers had stolen their wages, and more than half said they did not have confidence in local police to treat them fairly.

Fear of the police goes hand-in-hand with reported increases in discrimination. According to the FBI, hate crimes against Latinos increased 40 percent from 2003 to 2007.

“In many ways,” Castro says, “Hispanics are the new whipping boys.” 


Powerful Numbers

Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court is recognition of Hispanics’ growing political power.
In 2008, 11 million Latinos voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama. Hispanic votes helped him to win Florida, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada; it’s not a stretch to say that he is president today because of those votes.

That probably means a Supreme Court nomination is just the start. Both political parties now have to make a pitch for Hispanic votes, or risk being marginalized by the sheer weight of numbers.

Issues that affect Hispanics will increasingly move to the top of the national agenda. Jacoby believes this primarily means “education, and issues that promote economic and social mobility,” which are typical hot-button issues for immigrants.
But Hispanics are also likely to demand reform of the country’s immigration policies, which are becoming a kind of litmus test for politicians. As Jacoby sees it, even Hispanics who are ambivalent about immigration seem to believe that if politicians are anti-immigration, they probably are not too approving of the Hispanics who are already here.


Living the Dream

As Hispanics grow in numbers, political clout and visibility, they will change. They will become more American, and America will become more Hispanic.

For Cisneros, it’s simple and overwhelmingly positive: “They are buying into the American Dream.”

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His panic or her panic but not mine, seriously, its interesting that a pole, done by the private sector deeped “Latinos” as the fastest growing Immigrants in America since Europeans first illegally migrated to this country. So Time, Newsweek said Latino’s or His-panics were hiigherst seperating them from African-Americans who are also immigrants but through kidnapping from the continent of Africa. Seperation of collective consciousness plays a big role in the categorization of people’s deeper understanding of self, race, community, economic contribution etc. By saying one is better than the other amost graduating to “whiteness” like many Italians, Jews, Irish and Polish did after immigrating to America. The fact is that Lainos should not see themselves as middle class or upper class or even lower class, unless African Americans, Native Americans are equally included in this mix. Again, seperating and up grading us to middle class is like saying “we are a little bit pregnant” but not really all the way! No, we should settle for nothing unless Blacks or Native Americans receive the same because if we don’t then we will always be second class or “minorities” or worse, his-panic! (the word hispanic was invented by the Nixon administration, by a “Spanish” politician of European ancestry with non-Latiino interests, for a census)

william cordova
Jul 4, 2009

Hey, interesting presentation. I like the idea. Maaayyybe not the best article to use to drive traffic on the internet when you’re not bothering to moderate the comment section. Also, it’s quite disturbing to see a lack of basic research. 63 million Americans of Hispanic origin is alternately mentioned as being 1/4th and “almost 1/3rd” of the population in 2050. With something on the order of 306 million Americans alive today, even if Hispanics currently boasted a population of 63 million, it would only be 1/5th of the country. And certainly, the population of the US is expected to grow significantly over the next four decades. Bad math for a very basic and oft-cited number in the article. Doesn’t give me a whole ton of faith in the writing. Still, good luck.

Bob Bob
Jun 17, 2009


Mike Arthur
Jun 17, 2009

My sentiments and my solidarity: http://thedefendersonline.com/2009/06/05/a-black-woman%E2%80%99s-perspective-why-judge-sonia-sotomayor-is-one-of-my-people/ Peace.

Mamie~Louise Anderson
Jun 14, 2009

No nationality should influence a Supreme Court decision. The law is the law and is not determined by the life experiences of a specific group or gender, that is why justice wears a blindfold. Otherwise, whose life takes precedence….. Chinese, Vietnamese, Polish, Russian, German, etc. etc. It also disturbs me that we don’t pursue excellence in qualifications instead of meeting some idealogical society balance. Sotomayer has had 60% of her rulings overturned, she has stated herself that she was not as qualified as other applicants when accepted in school under affirmative action. We are supporting a drive to the lowest common denominator in this society of polical correctness and we need to return to selecting the best and most qualified candidate for a Supreme Court that was intended to interpret our Constiutuion as it was written and not influenced by personal bias.

c. falbe
Jun 13, 2009

I think it is very interesting that these articles use the stats that apply to illegal hispanic immigrants to represent those of us that are not illegal and are in fact well established and well educated members of our communities. We are in fact very much a part of the heartbeat of this country and the defficencies that are present in the ILLEGAL hispanic immgrants do not apply to us. We are bussiness owners, leaders, and in fact are none of those things the article describes. I have brothers who are consultants on projects worldwide and I am a subject matter expert consulted by a diverse group of industries on the effective implementation of project safety and environmental safeguards. I resent the inclusion of statistics that give the appearance that hispanics are in some way lagging in their pursuit of the american dream. Hispanics are not, Illegal hispanic immigrants are. I see this article as a petty attempt to rally those who are not truly informed, in order to sway their thinking to support nonsense-based liberal innitiatives. I have friends who are of every ethnic group and to be honost I am tired of explaining to them that people like the author are simply pimping steriotypes when they wriye these baseles and highly manipulated articles. Do us all a favor and quit lying to people about what the Hispanic-AMERICAN needs, wants, or thinks. By the way, Mi Casa No Es Su Casa! Es Mio, Por Que Yo Comprar Eso! Queres Uno? Vamos A Trabajar Y Vamos A Comparlo! Othra Cosa, Queres Un Vida Mas Mejore? Entra Con Tus Papeles O No Entras! Por Que Sin Papeles Es Sin Direchio! Ya Estuvo! JaGo

Jaden Gargullo
Jun 13, 2009

Intersting story. A couple of things they have missed. First is that the majority of mexican’s here in the US are illegal and do not even pay taxes. Second, the government allows this to happen so that one or the other party can get more people to vote for them. Third is that these people (mi nus the ones that actually are legal and pay taxes) are using up tax money by getting free rides to schools, colleges, food, housing, and any other “entitlement” that is available. There can be only one culture, one boarder and one language. Aparently there are people who have not learned from history and will repeat Rome, Canada…. WAKE UP!

Jun 12, 2009

What the hell is all this crap about meskins …? Are they wanting to try to take over…? Our ancestors kicked their butt once and America can do it again…Look what they have done to California..Flat out bankrupt the state and obama doesn’t care because he ordered INS to leave them along…What the hell..?…Meskins want to stay here, then become citizens like everyone else…Is that asking to much…?…They want everything for free and not have to be citizens…How much would we get in mexico if we went there and pulled the crap they are doing here…?…They don’t even want to learn the language and won’t teach their children either…Our hero John Wayne said “Just why in the hell do I have to press one for English”…You see, we have to cater them when they are too lazy to learn the language..just stand there and look stupid when asked something…They rob, steal, cheat, and murder our AMERICAN citizens and still don’t get sent back to mexico and not much else happens to them..

J.L. Chasteen
Jun 12, 2009

Your intro with the flag is to political. Do you kow what it means to the hispanic flags as the stars of American flag. Those stars in the American flag have a meaning of what belongs to EE..UU and that does not include Latin American countries.

Raquel Vasquez
Jun 12, 2009

im sorry that hispanics are imbreds and by the way mister you dont know your history YES the PILGRIMS were here FIRST and AMERICAN INDIANS no mex in the history BOOKS SORRY?

rick clark
Jun 12, 2009

look this united states country was not built on illegal mexican immigrants you people flock here illegaly and hide from the INS hopeing to become american citizens the problem is the MEXICAN GOVERNMENT will not take care of its people sorry thats not our problem you are screwing REAL AMERICAN people out of our jobs we are tired of you people illegaly coming here to make a life the MEXICAN GOVERNMENT IS RICH you people need to go after your own gomernment and stayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy out of our US COUNTRY because OUR STATISTICS SHOW long before 2050 the mexican immigrant loss in the US caused buy DEATH or OTHER will be SIGNIFICANT we HIGHLY SUGGEST leaving peacefully or endure the PAIN.

rick clark
Jun 12, 2009

What Ms. Jacoby and others seem to ignore is a distinction between legal and illegal immigration when making comments. I don’t believe politicians and every day citizens for that matter are “anti-immigration.” I do believe many are anti illegal immigration. I am a Mexican American myself. I do not support illegal immigration. I think it is foolish to believe that blanket deportation of law abiding illegal immigrants already here is the solution. I do support immigration reform. I think a good place to start would be the Jordan Commission recommendations made in the 1990s. I would even go further then this commission’s recommendations and limit visas to family members of American cititzens. Currently there is a tremendous back log of family member visa requests. It takes years for family members to immigrate legally. This country in good concious can no longer support the requests of Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) as a priority to bring their adult family members (this does not include those with permanent disabilities) to this country permanently and/or long term. I do support a amnesty of some fashion to assist in the legalization of the current illegal immigrants. The numbers are too vast to do anything else. With this second round of amnesty, (President Reagan granted amensty in the 80s) I would also like to see real immigration reform that enhances national security, addresses the national economy and the economy of the nations from which the United States receives the majority of its illegal immigration.

Jay Vega
Jun 9, 2009