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Latinos, Asians value legalization over citizenship, study finds

Latinos, Asians value legalization over citizenship, study finds
When forced to choose, many Asian Americans and Latinos would favor legalization ahead of citizenship, according to a new story. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

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.

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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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