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Poll: Hispanic Americans Skeptical about Race, Forty-Two Percent Feel Ignored by Obama

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New polling released by the Pew Research Center today explores racial attitudes one year after the historic election of President Barack Obama. While the phone-based (land line and cellular) poll found increasing optimism among African Americans, and decreasing racial tension among white and black Americans, it uncovered deep concerns about race among Latinos. The tension felt by Hispanic Americans is perhaps unsurprising given the tone and tenor of the unresolved immigration debate in this country.

The L.A Times reports:

One year after the election of President Barack Obama, black optimism about America has surged, while Hispanics have become more skeptical about race relations, according to a Pew Research Center poll released Tuesday. […]

The poll found that Hispanics, not blacks, now are seen as the ethnic group facing the most discrimination. Twenty-three percent of all respondents say Hispanics are discriminated against “a lot,” compared with 18 percent for blacks, 10 percent for whites and 8 percent for Asians.

A lot of that discrimination could stem from the racially-charged immigration rhetoric that flows from talk radio to nightly news to the halls of Congress, and back again.

The L.A. Times continues:

Hispanics also are less optimistic than other groups about interracial relations. When whites and blacks were asked how well their group gets along with Hispanics, more than 70 percent say “very” or “pretty” well. In contrast, only about 50 percent of Hispanics feel the same way.

There have been a number of recent attacks on Latinos that advocates say are hate crimes fueled by anti-immigration rhetoric.

“My sense is that racism in this country seems to be pretty entrenched,” said Carmen Febo-San Miguel, executive director of the Latino cultural center Taller Puertorriqueno in Philadelphia. She cited the beating death of a Mexican immigrant in Shenandoah, Pa., that federal authorities have called a hate crime.

Interestingly enough, the majority of Latinos who felt discrimination were not foreign-born. On the whole, the L.A. Times reported that 79 percent of U.S-born Latinos felt significant discrimination against their ethnic group (versus 48 percent of foreign-born Latinos).

The Pew poll also dug into the extent to which different groups felt the President was paying enough attention to them. While only twenty percent of black Americans and twenty-two percent of white Americans reported feeling ignored, a whopping forty-two percent of Hispanic respondents felt that Obama was not paying enough attention to their group.

An NPR interview this morning also discussed the finding, coming to the conclusion that this could put more pressure on the President and Congress to move forward on comprehensive immigration reform. NPR news analyst Juan Williams argued that Judge Sotomayor’s appointment last year was not enough to satisfy Latino voters, who see immigration reform as a key priority.

In fact, a recent poll of Latino voters “found that 84% of Latino voters think it is either ‘important, very important, or extremely important’ that immigration reform is enacted before the 2010 midterm elections.”

The good news for the President and Congress, however, is that immigration is not just a “Latino issue”– overhauling our nation’s broken immigration laws is still important to the majority of Americans, who want to see the system fixed and the crisis solved. Polling released this week shows that 66 percent of voters (Republicans, Independents, and Democrats) support a program that better regulates immigration flows and clears backlogs, prevents future illegal immigration, and has undocumented immigrants register, meet certain requirements, and pay taxes on their way to becoming full U.S. citizens.

Moreover, fixing immigration is an integral part of our economic recovery.

With over 100 events happening across the country in support of real immigration reform this week, the message to Washington is clear: it’s time to get this done.