Education is Top Issue for Latino Voters

Education hasn’t been one of the top issues being discussed in the run up to the presidential election. But for Latino voters, it is perhaps the most important issue.

A recent survey by the Pew Hispanic Center shows just how important. Pew surveyed 1,765 Latino adults from throughout the country by telephone between Sept. 7 and Oct. 4. The group included 903 registered voters.

About 55 percent of Latino registered voters said education was extremely important to them, followed closely by jobs. Only about 34 percent of Hispanic voters said immigration was extremely important.

About 89 percent of the Latino adults surveyed (and 86 percent of registered Latino voters) said they supported President Obama’s deferred action plan, which will allow undocumented immigrant youth who grew up in the United States and meet certain requirements to stay in the country legally to study and apply for work permits. About 31 percent of Hispanic adults (and 26 percent of Latino registered voters) said they know someone who has applied for deferred action.

The same survey found that 69 percent of the Latino registered voters surveyed supported President Obama and 21 percent supported Mitt Romney.

This isn’t the first time a survey has found education to be a top concern. A poll by the Federation for Children and the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options released in May found that 58 percent of Latinos agreed that “we need to hear more from the presidential candidates on how they will improve education.”

For registered voters, the margin of error was plus or minus 4.6 percentage points.

Related Links:

– “Latino Voters Support Obama by 3-1 Ratio, but are less certain than Others about Voting.” Pew Hispanic Center.

– “Latino Voters Rank Education as a Top Issue.” Latino Ed Beat.

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How Are School Districts Handling ‘Deferred Action’ Records Requests?

School districts play a key role in providing the records necessary for undocumented immigrant young people to apply for the federal government’s deferred action program. The program will protect qualified applicants from deportation for two years and allows them to work.

Because students need to prove they have attended and completed their education in U.S. schools, many districts are seeing requests for high school transcripts and other documents spike. Some are struggling to keep up with the pace of requests.

The Associated Press reports that the school district in Yakima, Wash., is taking almost a month to provide transcripts and San Diego schools have added employees to keep up with the pace of requests.

The Los Angeles Times recently reported how such requests are placing a strain on the Los Angeles Unified School District. As many as 200,000 current and former students could be eligible for the program. In addition, the labor and postage associated with all the requests could result in about $200,000 in costs to the district.

Are your school districts seeing an increase in document requests? How quickly are they responding to the requests? Are counselors also working with students to make them aware of organizations that can help them apply for deferred action?

Related Links:

– “Requests for records for deferred action applications strain consulates, schools.” The Huffington Post/Associated Press.

– “Deferred action program puts strain on L.A. Unified.” The Los Angeles Times. 

– Deferred Action. USCIS.

Undocumented Immigrant Students May Begin Applying for “Deferred Action” Today

Young undocumented immigrants today may begin applying for “deferred action” status that would protect them from deportation for two years and allow them to work. The new protected status is the result of a policy change announced by President Obama in June.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, up to 1.7 million undocumented young people ages 30 and younger–about 85 percent of whom are Latino–could stand to benefit.

To qualify, undocumented immigrants must have lived in the United States continuously since June 15,2007; must have moved to the United States before reaching their 16th birthday; be enrolled in school, have a high school diploma or GED, or have been honorably discharged from the military when they apply; and cannot have committed a felony or significant misdemeanor.

In addition, young people can prove their identity with passports or birth certificates, any photo ID, school transcripts, medical and financial records, sworn affidavits and other evidence.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has posted instructions on how to apply online, in addition to lists of other documents young people can provide.  They must pay a $465 application fee, but young people with high financial need may apply for an exemption.

The change stops short of the Dream Act, which has repeatedly failed to pass in Congress and would have provided path to citizenship for undocumented youth.

Still, the changes are making many young people more optimistic about their futures.

Ariel Ruiz, 23, immigrated illegally to the U.S. from Mexico at age 10 and is a graduate of Whitman College with a degree in sociology. Because he was undocumented, after he graduated he worked one summer harvesting garlic.

“I’m finally able to see a pathway to doing what I studied to do,” he told The Chronicle of Higher Education. “It will be a great source of motivation for students who gave up on education, thinking they would end up picking apples or onions.”

The Chronicle story pointed out that many colleges have not been actively informing students about the policy, even though many of their students are eligible. However, number of groups across the country are offering young people assistance in applying and determining their eligibility. In my region, Catholic Charities of Dallas is offering appointments. The group United We Dream is providing information online.

Related Links:

– “Up to 1.7 million unauthorized immigrant youth may benefit from new deportation rules.” Pew Hispanic Center.

– “Instruction for consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals.” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

– “U.S. opens a door to a dream.” The Chronicle of Higher Education.

– United We Dream.

– “Relief for young undocumented immigrants starts today.” Learning the Language. Education Week.