Latinos, Whites Split on Immigrant Laws Ok’d by Brown

Cindy Chang, Los Angeles Times, November 8, 2013

California voters are generally welcoming toward immigrants who are in the country illegally, but a wide gap exists between whites and Latinos on some new laws hailed by Gov. Jerry Brown when he signed them last month, according to a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.

The groups differ most on allowing immigrants without legal status to obtain driver’s licenses and practice law.

Nearly 69% of Latino voters but only 44% of whites support the new driving privilege law. The split was sharper on whether those who are in the country illegally should be allowed to become attorneys, with 65% of Latino voters in favor but only 26% of whites.

Neither law gained majority support among all voters.

To win over a growing Latino electorate, California politicians will continue to push for immigrant-friendly legislation, analysts predicted. The poll shows that 61% of Latinos approve of Brown’s performance, compared with 51% of whites.

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Brown signed 11 immigrant-related measures this fall, but none generated as much controversy as the long-debated driver’s license bill. The licenses will be marked “DP,” for driving privilege.

Overall, 49% support the license law, with 47% opposed. Support was greater for granting licenses without a distinguishing mark, with 51% in favor, 46% opposed.

A decade ago, polls showed that most California voters disapproved of driver’s licenses for immigrants who are in the country illegally, an issue that contributed to Gov. Gray Davis’ recall. But the state’s demographics have shifted, with Latinos now making up 23% of voters. Whites are also more likely to support the licenses than they were in the past.

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As a group, white voters are still less enthusiastic about pro-immigrant measures than Latinos are, drawing the line at rights they see as reserved for citizens.

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Two-thirds of white voters are opposed to allowing holders of green cards to serve on juries, with 44% of Latinos opposed. Overall, only 35% of voters supported the measure, which was vetoed by Brown. A majority of whites support a new law allowing those with green cards to serve as poll workers.

More than 50% of Latino voters but only 44% of white voters support the Trust Act, which limits cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities. Overall, 48% of voters approve of the law, which Brown signed after vetoing a similar measure last year.

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