Coalition For Immigration Reform Among Today’s Youth

According to a recent study from the Chicago-based Black Youth Project, young people – particularly people of color – are generally supportive of comprehensive immigration reform.  The study showed encouraging results for the possibility of building a Black-Brown coalition, but not without its share of challenges.

Black and Latino youth demonstrated greater support for comprehensive immigration reform, while white youth tended to favor more punitive approaches.  For example, Black (77.5 percent) and Latino (89.4 percent) youth supported a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, while white youth (53.3 percent) were much less supportive.  Black (73.7 percent) and Latino (85.8 percent) youth also expressed greater support than white youth (64.5 percent) for extending citizenship to undocumented immigrants who serve in the U.S. military. Moreover, Black (62.2 percent) and Latino (87.9 percent) youth also supported the expansion of guest worker programs at higher rates than white youth (59.9 percent).

Challenges to this alliance still exist.  Nearly sixty percent of both Black (56.1 percent) and white (59.0 percent) youth believe that immigrants take away jobs, housing and health care from people born in the U.S.  Only a third (33.4 percent) of Latino youth shared this view.  Immigration also raises questions about the established racial order in the U.S.  When asked to compare the way immigrants are treated to the way native-born Black people are treated, the results were polarized across racial lines.  More than sixty (61.1) percent of Black youth responded that most immigrants are treated better than most Black people born in the U.S.  In contrast, less that a quarter (24.2 percent) of Latino youth agreed.

An examination of the data shows that young people’s beliefs about immigration are complicated.  “These findings have substantial implications not only for politics of immigration reform, but also for the political cohesion of young Blacks and Latinos,” the survey’s authors write. “The findings in this report suggest that there are a variety of attitudinal barriers to Black-Brown collaboration. In an era where young people are deeply worried about the availability of jobs and affordable health care, it is important to limit the ability of the media and our politicians to exploit these concerns and generate mistrust and anxiety among young people of color.”

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