Prof. Raymond Smith
April 16, 2013
Issue Brief: Latino Immigration Status
Latino, Hispanic, Immigration, Unauthorized Immigration, Latin America, Central America,
Caribbean, Naturalized Citizen, Push or Pull Immigration
This issue brief outlines the status of Latino Immigration by objectively delineating the fastest growing minority in the United States. The brief also includes the sentiments of US residents of
Hispanic origin regarding immigration of their racial/ethnic group.
Hispanic and Latino are defined differently by distinct sources. However, the U.S.
Census Bureau does not draw distinctions between Latinos and Hispanics.
53% of US foreign born residents originate in Latin America making this population the fastest growing minority.
There are around 11 million unauthorized immigrants residing in the United States, more than half of these individuals originate from Mexico.
While a majority of Latino Residents of the U.S. agree that unauthorized immigration is immoral, most do not support discriminatory laws targeting such immigrants.
Merriam-Webster defines the noun Latino as one who is a native or inhabitant of Latin
America or an individual of Latin-American origin residing in the United States. A slate.com article published during the appointment of Judge Sonia Sotomayor summarizes the distinction between being Hispanic and Latino. The article reads, “Hispanic is an English word that originally refereed to people from Spain and eventually expanded to include the populations of
Rahman 2 its colonies in South and Central America.” In contrast, the piece explains, “Latino is a Spanish word […] that refers to people with roots in Latin America and generally excludes the Iberian
Peninsula” (slate.com). Nevertheless, the U.S. Census Bureau does not make a distinction between the terms Hispanic and Latino. It delineates Hispanics and Latinos as persons who trace their origin or ancestry to Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Spanish-speaking Central and South
America countries, and other Spanish cultures (census.gov). For the purposes of this brief, the words Latino and Hispanic will be used interchangeably. There is no point of contention when it comes to the fact that the Latino/Hispanic population is the largest and fastest growing minority in the United States.
The 2010 Census results counted 309.3 million people residing within the US, including the 40.0 million foreign born residents. Out of all foreign born residents, 53% or 21.2 million originated from Latin America. Of the immigrants from Latin America, 70% or almost 15 million were from Central America, while 18% were from the Caribbean and the remaining 13% were from South America. From the complete population from Latin America, Mexican immigrants accounted for 55%. Cuban immigrants, on the other hand, represented the largest faction of the Caribbean population at 30% while Colombian immigrants boasted the largest share of the foreign born persons from South America at 23% (census.gov).
The Census data also displays the number of individuals from each region in Latin
America who have gone through the process of naturalization in the United States. The varying percentages can be attributed to issues such as political and economic situations in different countries which result in either push or pull immigration. In 2010, 32% of the foreign-born population from Latin America was naturalized citizens. The foreign-born population from
Central America had the lowest percentage naturalized of all regions at merely 24%. Of the individuals who originated in the Caribbean, 54% were naturalized citizens, while about 44% from South America were also naturalized citizens. The counties with the lowest number of such citizens were Mexico and Honduras. According to the census data, 23