Discrimination, fear of deportation and access to jobs remain key areas of worry among Latinos, though within the group, there are divisions about the depths of those concerns, according to a Pew Hispanic Research study released Thursday.
The national study found 61 percent of Latinos surveyed believe discrimination is a "major problem" that keeps them from succeeding in America up from 54 percent in 2007.
Michael Clara, chairman of the Utah Republican Hispanic Assembly, said the national results in many ways mirror what he encounters daily within his Salt Lake City neighborhood. He said the concerns stem largely from the economic downturn.
Clara said when the economy went south, people tend to panic and look to scapegoat Latinos.
"In good economic times, you don't hear the rhetoric," Clara said. "Hispanics have been stigmatized by the anti-immigrant rhetoric. When you can refer to a Hispanic woman's child as an anchor baby and turn the child into an object â¦ it's dehumanizing."
But Clara said the fear of deportation has been driven up by measures like the Arizona law and a bill being proposed by Utah Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem. Both seek to crack down on illegal immigration by using local police to enforce federal laws and deport violators.
The study reported 52 percent of Latinos feared they, a family member or a friend would be deported including 34 percent who said they worried "a lot" about it. The study, however, broke it down to show that 73 percent of Latinos who spoke mostly Spanish regardless of their legal status feared the specter of deportation, while only 19 percent of those who primarily speak English shared the same fear.
Among those who were bilingual, the deportation fear stood at 51 percent.
When it came to what to do with the estimated 11 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally, Latinos had different ideas on how to deal with them. Only 13 percent thought they should be deported while 53 percent said they should pay a fine, but not be deported. About 28 percent believed there should be no punishment at all.
Daniel Argueta, a member of the Latino-rights activist group Utah's Brown Berets said he doesn't support punishment for entering the country illegally. But he said he understood the portion who would like a fine be imposed.
"Of course, you have Latinos who recognize that a law was broken, but it was a minor infraction similar to running a red light, so they should get a ticket or something," Argueta said. "I just don't see why we would fine someone who is trying for a better life for their family especially when there is no viable way for them to gain entry legally."
Pew Hispanic Research, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., released the report during a political season that has seen the issue rise through state laws and public statements by candidates.
The survey conducted between August and September polled 1,375 Latinos, of which 542 were native-born and 833 were foreign-born.
Latinos divided on illegal immigration
53 percent say undocumented immigrants should pay fine, but not be deported.
28 percent prefer no punishment.
13 percent favor deportation.
6 percent don't know.
Source: Pew Hispanic Center survey of 1,375 Latinos.