A Change in California Sentiments Regarding Undocumented Immigrants

While GOP gubernatorial candidates in California are scapegoating undocumented immigrant students and Californians remain largely pessimistic about the economy, a new poll finds a deep shift in California sentiments regarding immigration.

While Californians still do not think that undocumented immigrants contribute positively to the economy, 47% also oppose implementing “stronger enforcement at the border and prohibit[ing] those here illegally from benefiting from any taxpayer-funded social services,” versus 45% in support. This marks a shift from the state that passed Proposition 187 almost two decades ago, which had prohibited undocumented immigrants from accessing public services.

A disturbing element revealed by the poll is the difference between how Asian and Latino immigrants are perceived. Asians are still model minorities and Latinos bear the brunt of being viewed as the “bad apples.” Asian immigrants are overwhelmingly (68%) seen as doing well in school, while only 16% of Californians perceive Latino immigrants in this manner. About twice that percentage see Latino immigrants as welfare-recipients and criminals. Thus, unfortunately, we cannot call this recent poll a great shift in public attitudes and perceptions regarding immigrants or different ethnic groups.

So while the poll results are encouraging on California support for immigration reform and services for undocumented immigrants, the small shift probably comes from a larger percentage of Latinos residing in California now than in 1994. It is not a big enough change in public attitudes and perceptions to hail as monumental.

Photo Credit: Voces de la Frontera

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