Despite the fact that the United States as we know it was founded by an immigrant population, it has become exceedingly difficult for modern-day immigrants to integrate into the population. This is partially due to the growing number of illegal immigrants in the country, some of whom seem hell-bent on making a bad name for the whole group. Although it can be agreed that they all began their tenure in this country as fugitives of a sort, the majority have whole-heartedly embraced the opportunity to leave their old lives behind and create a new and brighter future for themselves and their families in the U.S. But even outsiders who come to this country on the up-and-up have faced issues when it comes to being accepted into their new homeland. And a study reveals that Latinos seem to be getting the short end of the stick when it comes to stereotyping.
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati conducted 2,150 random phone surveys of Ohio residents with the intention of discovering their perceptions regarding various groups of immigrant populations in the United States (including Asian, European, and Middle Eastern immigrants in addition to Latinos). Participants in the survey were given five criteria by which to judge these groups: conformity, dependence, intelligence, violence, and wealth. They were then asked to choose between two extremes in each category, one positive and one negative (rich or poor, for example) pertaining to each group. And the end results showed that Latinos received the lowest ratings across the board.
In addition, researchers questioned participants about the potential impact of growing immigrant populations, and which groups, if any, might have a significant influence on the future of our nation. Again, Latinos were viewed in a negative light, with the majority of respondents associating their expanding presence with a rise in crime and unemployment (attributes that were not associated nearly as much with other immigrant groups). What is interesting is that these attitudes are prevalent in a state that has one of the lowest influxes of immigrants in the nation. In fact, Ohio was chosen for the survey specifically because immigration has had little impact there.
Like most surveys, this one raises more questions than answers. Why do Americans, even those who are relatively unaffected by immigration, view the issue in such a negative light? And what has caused the Latino population to become vilified amongst other immigrant groups? Is it simply a proximity to Latin countries that makes the incursion of a Latin population more prominent in our minds? Or are these attitudes perhaps linked to the current discourse on immigration reform, which focuses largely on illegal immigrants from Latin American countries?
Maybe it has more to do with the prevailing stereotypes created in Hollywood. You don’t have to be a USA immigration lawyer to see that the influence of the media has had a marked effect on the overall perception of certain immigrant groups. The most likely explanation is a convergence of several factors, but the role the media plays in promoting an agenda and keeping the issue of immigration (particularly from Latin countries) fresh in our minds may be at the forefront of why Americans hold such negative views of Latinos.