In the face of racism, threats of deportation and myriad cultural barriers, most U.S. Latin American immigrants would come to America again if they could.
Two-thirds of U.S. Latin American adults born outside of the U.S. would choose to stay in America, according to a recent survey by Ipsos on behalf of Remitly. The rest would stay where they were born or go elsewhere.
More than half of those surveyed would recommend moving to the U.S. to others. Six in ten would encourage family from their home country to relocate to the U.S., despite its political climate.
“I was a little surprised that a year-and-a-half into the Trump administration centered on anti-immigrant and anti-Latin American immigrant policy, 60% of respondents say they would still encourage family to come to the U.S.,” says Cliff Young, president of U.S. Ipsos Public Affairs. “That speaks to the powerful draw that American society has. That we are still appealing even though our political leaders have tried to make immigration so inhospitable is a strong testament to the relative appeal of the U.S.”
American Dream is possible
He also was surprised that 90% of those surveyed still believe that if they work hard they can achieve the American Dream. “I would hazard to guess that it is higher than you would see from a lot of native-born Americans,” he says.
Ipsos polled people from more than 23 Latin countries of origin. Among them, 54% were from Mexico, 7% from Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, and 7% were from Venezuela.
Nearly half of those who believe in the American Dream pointed to better access to basic standards of living and access to better education as the most attainable opportunities for them. Other goals include physical safety, better access to jobs and free speech.
Zero-tolerance unlikely to make America less attractive
Young doubts that these sentiments would dramatically shift given the public outcry this week over the Trump administration separating families. “These numbers are a decent baseline for the desire to come to the U.S.,” says Young. “Even though the Trump administration first set up its zero-tolerance policy and now have reversed direction, I don’t think it fundamentally changes the appeal of coming to the United States.”
It’s important to keep in mind the negative economic and sometimes dangerous conditions that many immigrants are leaving behind in their countries of origin, says Virginia Lennon, senior vice president, U.S. Ipsos Connect and an expert on U.S. Latinos. “When you think about what’s happening in countries like Venezuela and Nicaragua, these are often untenable situations and the promise of America remains a strong one,” she says.
Survey respondents ranked cultural barriers like language and education as the biggest challenges they face here, followed by regulation like visas and deportation. However, for the 40% of those who wouldn’t encourage family to relocate, the immigration process being difficult was the top reason, followed by racism.
But even with all that’s going on politically and weighing these options, “the pros still outweigh the cons and lead immigrants to the U.S.,” Lennon says. She adds that those who left for economic reasons did so seeking the ability to make a better life for themselves and their families. “That’s the misnomer, that most of these immigrants feed off the system,” says Lennon. “One of the cornerstones of Latino culture in the notion of hard work. And in the U.S., if you put in the work, you have the opportunity for success.”
For Latinos, the American Dream remains tangible and aspirational. Lennon adds that U.S. Latinos’ aspirational attitude manifests itself through spending more on household groceries, or product categories like technology, buying a new car or owning a home. For them, she says, “This is still the land of opportunity.”