Hispanics are the nation’s largest minority group, numbering around 47 million people or 15.5% of the total U.S. population. About a quarter of Hispanic adults are unauthorized immigrants, most of them arriving as part of a heavy wave of immigration that began gathering force in the 1970s. Non-citizens account for 44% of the total adult Hispanic population. Of these non-citizen adults, an estimated 55% are undocumented immigrants and the other 45% are legal residents.
Through our grassroots work we’ve learned that many Hispanic immigrants have little faith in political institutions and leadership figures, which can make the process of integration into life in the United States a challenge. The discrimination they experience contributes to a sense of low expectations, fear, misunderstanding, and isolation. At HAF we provide encouragement to immigrants in their integration process, and offer access to accurate information and referrals to the appropriate legal services. When families are separated due to immigration problems, we work with the Department of Homeland Security or local law enforcement officials to identify the location of missing family members. We also work with the media to stimulate positive stories about immigrants, to help address some of the negative stereotypes and prejudices. We fundamentally believe that all people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender and immigration status have rights and responsibilities as members of our society.
Just over half of all Hispanic adults in the U.S. worry that they, a family member or a close friend could be deported. Nearly two-thirds say the failure of Congress to enact an immigration reform bill has made life more difficult for all Latinos. Smaller numbers (ranging from about one-in-eight to one-in-four) say the heightened attention to immigration issues has had a specific negative effect on them personally. These effects include more difficulty finding work or housing; less likelihood of using government services or traveling abroad; and more likelihood of being asked to produce documents to prove their immigration status.
In fiscal year 2007, there were just over 300,000 deportations of undocumented immigrants from the U.S., according to the Department of Homeland Security. About one-third of the deportations occur at the Southwestern border, after an immigrant is apprehended trying to enter the country illegally. An increase in worksite raids around the country has led to a ten-fold increase in the number of undocumented immigrants arrested at their workplace. Numerous cases have been reported of immigrants forced to leave their children abruptly upon detention by the police, and in some cases children have even perished when their parents simply never came home from work because of a workplace raid.