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Latinos, Asians value legalization over citizenship, study finds

By Cindy Chang

9:05 PM PST, December 18, 2013

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Many Latinos and Asian Americans support a pathway to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally but would settle for a reprieve from deportation, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center.

A bill that includes a path to citizenship has stalled in the House of Representatives after passing the Senate. The survey results point to a possible third way, the authors write -- legalization without citizenship.

Nearly 90% of Latinos and more than 70% of Asian Americans support the citizenship provision, the survey found. But if forced to choose, 55% of Latinos and 49% of Asian Americans rate being able to live and work in the U.S. legally as more important than citizenship.

Both groups rank immigration as a low priority compared with the economy, education, healthcare and the federal budget deficit, the survey found.

In an increasingly diverse country, Latinos and Asian Americans are sought-after demographics for both political parties. They overwhelmingly supported President Obama in the last election and still have a high opinion of him: 54% of Latinos and 62% of Asian Americans approve of Obama’s job performance, compared with 41% of the overall U.S. population, according to the survey.

If immigration reform fails, more than 40% of each group would blame congressional Republicans, the survey found.

Of the people surveyed, immigrants are generally more sympathetic than native-born Americans to allowing more immigrants into the country. Just over 50% of Latinos and nearly three-quarters of Asian American adults are immigrants, the report noted.

About 60% of the Latino immigrants surveyed said they worry about a family member or a close friend being deported, compared with 18% of Asian immigrants.  

According to data compiled by the researchers, there are about 35 million Latinos and 12.5 million Asian Americans in the U.S. About 22% of Latinos and 11% of Asians are in the country illegally.

Asian Americans tend to be better educated and wealthier than Latinos. More than half of Asian Americans are college-educated, compared with 15% of Latinos, the survey noted. The median household income is $67,400 for Asian Americans and $39,200 for Latinos.

The survey found that Latinos and Asian Americans are more satisfied with the direction of the country than the general public is -- 34% of Latinos and 38% of Asian Americans are satisfied, compared with 14% of the overall population.

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Twitter: @cindychangLA

cindy.chang@latimes.com