Ruxandra Guidi, Fronteras Reporter
Jose Jiminez, Social and Web Editor, Fronteras Reporter
Related Story: 2011: Fronteras Desk Top Stories
ST. JOHN: You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Alison St. John in for Maureen Cavanaugh. 2011's been a year of interesting trends on the immigration front. While the nation waits for the political climate to change enough to enact reform, economic changes are rapidly reshaping the experience of immigrants. We have two members of our fronteras desk with us, Ruxandra Guidi.
GUIDI: Thank you.
ST. JOHN: And Jose Jimenez. Great to have you here too
JIMENEZ: Thank you, Alison.
ST. JOHN: So let's start with the census that came out this year. That give us a good sense of some trends. How did the census show us that the demographics have changed here in San Diego?
GUIDI: Sure. If any of us hadn't noticed, in most -- all around the states, the census proved that the country is increasingly more diversified, and not only that, but it's increasingly Latino and younger. So the census revealed a lot of interesting trends over the last ten years, basically the poverty rate is growing among folks. And the number of immigrants who are settling in the US and staying here longer is also growing. There's a growing Latino population, which tended to be around the southwest states that employed a lot of immigrants and undocumented laborer. Now, that's extended to the whole country
ST. JOHN: So in San Diego, whether any particular areas where we saw more immigrants coming to live here?
JIMENEZ: Yes, one of the things that the census revealed is that now there are more minorities than whites living in San Diego County. And that was a first for San Diego County. San Diego County was different from the rest of the counties along the border in that it was while majority white. Now for the first time, that has changed. And like Ruxandra mentioned earlier, the majority of that minority population is Latino. And the other thing that the census saw is that the minorities are now spreading out of their traditional neighborhoods, southeast San Diego, or the Southbay. They're now spreading north into the North County and east into the east county. And Ruxandra did a great story emblem attic of that.
ST. JOHN: So you did a story about a business up in Oceanside that explained a bit about the dynamics going on, right?
GUIDI: That's right. It was a collaboration with Jose over here. We wanted to take a look at one of these communities that may have drastically changed in the last ten years. And we thought of Oceanside, North County, we found a neighborhood which is primarily made up of retirees. It's a retiree community called Oceanea. And I found that a restaurant that catered mostly to this community, a white, upper middle class community, had gone from being a white owned business for about 15 years to one of the former cooks actually purchasing the restaurant keeping a lot of the staff. So it's a restaurant that had been white-owned for many years, Mexican worker saved and bought it. And now basically tailored it to both bit that retiree community, and then the rising Mexican-American Latino community. So this is grandma's restaurant, a great little mom and pop shop out there in Oceanea. And I found that this -- Faustino is his name, fit quite perfectly into that new Oceanside. He has a lot of the work ethics that a lot of immigrants do when they come to the states, and he understands what makes a business work because he's risen through the ranks himself. He's worked his way, you know, in a restaurant business. So he had a very keen understanding of how an American business works and it's thriving.
ST. JOHN: Even though it's a different kind of a role from what your stereotype might be.
ST. JOHN: And proving to be very successful up there. So part of the -- while we may have many more Latinos living in the community, it does seem there's an interesting trend within the Latino community that the birth rate has been falling. Can you explain that?
GUIDI: Sure. Birth rates have been falling all across the country. But interestingly, and this is --
ST. JOHN: The thing is that the Latino community is so family-oriented. You get a sense that having children is so important.
GUIDI: That's right. And the stereotype is that it's a lot of young Latina girls that have a lot of children. But actually those birth rates are declining. But that said, are the young Latino population is growing. And a lot of these are second, third, 4th generation immigrant families. The and that's going to be an interesting thing to watch over this next 2012 election, because a growing -- I think the largest number of Latinos will be voting for the very first time, will be turning 18 and able to vote. So Latino citizens
ST. JOHN: I think that's a question on a lot of people's minds, how it's going to affect the coming election. So apparently there's legal immigration is reducing, you know, so people who feel like we haven't had immigration reform, we need to strengthen the border are seeing immigration falling. Can you give us some explanation of why that trend has been happening?
GUIDI: We're seeing a couple of different things. In the last at least since Barack Obama has been president, border security has become a top issue. It was also during president bush's terms, but border security and beefing up border security has been a top issue. And while we have a lot more border patrol, and customs and boarder protection and security at the border, we have a lot less people trying to cross the borer illegally. The apprehensions of border crossers have gone down by 70%, to the levels they were during the Nixon administration
ST. JOHN: Dramatic, yeah, even without reform. And possibly the question is whether it was because of all the extra enforcement or due to the economy
JIMENEZ: Exactly. It's one of the things that a study pointed out earlier this year, making the argument that economics is part of the strongest reason for it. And it's twofold, one, obviously the economy in the US continues to suffer here, still kind of stagnating, trying to get out of the recession. Second, Mexico has already come out of their recession. They were having growth rates over 5%. And it's producing many jobs down there. And people are starting to do the cost benefit analysis of the long trek up north, probably having to pay several thousand dollars to a coyoto to get into the us, as opposed to staying in Mexico and being able to get a job and have a chance. And one more thing the study showed was some demographic changes in Mexico. The birth rate is also lower fer-Mexicans. So it's -- more people are applying for jobs, there are more jobs than employees. Which makes wages go up higher. And I did another story this year that looked at the increasing dangers for folks crossing the border. Not only has the price of being smuggled into the US gone up, but also the dangers facing migrants. So right now, we have a lot of Mexican cartels are involved in the business of human smuggling. And that's made it increasingly difficult for people. If you add that risk have been crossing the border, the expense, that you might not find a job in the economy of the states when you get here, all of those factors have added to the lower number of apprehensions at the bore
ST. JOHN: In the absence of political reform, even so, immigration appears to have fallen for economic, and then the drug cartel reasons. But politically, there has been some influence on the number of people who are getting deported?
GUIDI: That's right. Yeah, and the last two years, the number of deportations have grown to their highest levels. Last year, there were 393 thousand people who were deported mostly to Mexico, central America. When President Obama has tried to argue for immigration reform, a lot of the criticism, part of Republicans and some democratic, was, well, we need to secure the border. After we secure the border, maybe we can discuss immigration reform. So there was this big beef up for border security. And to actually get rid of a lot of the undocumented illegal population that is here. However, that has generated a lot of criticism over who are these people that are getting deported? Are they criminals? Are they people with a criminal record? And as it turns out, about I think it's about 30% of the people that have been deported are folks that -- whose only violation of a civil violation, which is being here without papers but that have no records of no felonies or criminal pasts. So that has actually brought the Latino community across the country has rallied against the Obama administration over this. Because even though there's been a higher number of deportations, about a third of those people haven't --
ST. JOHN: Committed any crimes. Jose?
JIMENEZ: And another change in the policy, it's interesting, is how they're deporting people. Now, instead of basically putting them -- kicking them out of the country and putting them into Mexico, there's flights that are taking them much further into Mexico or into Guatemala or Honduras where they're from. And a series we did, life after deportation, we went on one of those flights and how these people, a lot of them who grew up in the US now have to get used to now living again in their country. And it seems to be working. One of the stories that we did was three people -- talking to three men, two of which have been deported, and there was a debate about whether to try and go back.
ST. JOHN: Go back or not
JIMENEZ: And one said, yes, it's worth it. Another said I'm not going back. And a third gentleman was, like, I don't think it's even worth it to begin with. Along with the border enforcement, the way people are being deported is also having an effect.
ST. JOHN: Rux?
GUIDI: I just wanted to add, deportations are a complicated issue. It's gone down to about 11 million undocumented people in the states. And how do you care for these people, provide services? Basically encourage legal immigration into the country. But what we have is basically a system, courts, that can't handle the number of people that are up for deportation. So because of a lot of the criticism, and because we have overburdened immigration courts, the administration decided to try to reform some of the way that they deal with deportations. And they approved -- secretary Janet Napolitano entriesed prosecutorial discretion, it's called, which is trying to streamline the process by which people who are being deported, and prioritizing these who do have a criminal past. This would make it easier for the people enforcing the immigration law, but also for those undocumented immigrants that may have been stopped at a Czech point without a license and have no criminal past, have a family near here, and they end up getting deported.
ST. JOHN: But has that actually played out in practice? Are people seeing that they're not getting deported if nay don't have a criminal past?
GUIDI: Some. We have yet to see. A lot of the changes don't see to be across the board right now. There are pilot projects for how to best execute prosecutorial discretion in two cities around the country, but not here in California. And some people, especially dream act students, college students who has been undocumented, but are in good academic and civil standing have been spared deportation. But we have yet to see. There's a large number of people who are trying to get their case in front of a judge again. But at this point it's too early to tell
ST. JOHN: Newt Gingrich has been making some pretty interesting statements about who should and should not be deported. Of and there was a study out just today which was talking about what Latinos think about the fact that there are more deportations happening under the Obama administration. What's their reaction?
GUIDI: There's a pew Hispanic study looking at Latinos' opinions on deportations, on how Barack Obama has handled a lot of immigration enforcement, and also taking a look at how these opinions may play out in the 2012 election. And it finds that despite growing criticism among Latinos among Barack Obama, they still tend to support the Democratic Party. More than half of critical of Barack Obama's handling of the deportations. But it's interesting, every election we hear the Latinos will hold that key vote. And my sense is this time around, 2012, because immigration has become such a big issue, and because Barack Obama campaigned on promising immigration reform and it still hasn't happened, but what we've seen is an increase of deportations, that may play out in a bigger way this election than any other issue is my sense
ST. JOHN: Did the report show how much of the Latino community is even aware of the bigger issues, the trends and the increase in deportations?
GUIDI: The report goes into the fact that a lot of Latinos may not be able to differentiate one issue from the next. They think of immigration reform basically -- or immigration being something that could be split into border security enforcement or amnesty for those who are here legally. And Latinos tend to support a path to legalization as immigration reform and be less supportive of something like Obama's deportation policy.
JIMENEZ: And actually the pew study mirrors an earlier study we a group called poling Latino decisions, which said while immigration is very, very important, like everybody else, the economy is jobs is NO. 1 with Latinos. They are also suffering during this economy. Which according to this poll explained why they still support the Democratic Party because they see the Democratic Party as the party being able to offer them more opportunities as opposed to the Republican party
ST. JOHN: We have had redistricting in the last year, which I guess we're still waiting to see the results of it. Will that have any impact on the influence of the Latino community on those who are representing us in politics?
JIMENEZ: If it's going to get done by the election time. As we've reported on fronteras desk, right now, Nevada grew by one. And that's a push in that state to try and make that new congressional district a majority Latino district to try and get a Latino elected in Nevada. But that's caught up in the Courts right now. Over in Arizona, the same thing. Arizona grew and the Latino population is growing, and the Republicans in charge sacked the person in charge of the redistricting commission in Arizona, which is probably now heading to a big legal fight.
ST. JOHN: Right.
JIMENEZ: As we were talking about earlier with the census, the redistricting is based on census figures. And the census clearly shows that the southwest is trending Latino. Which means we should get more representation. But like with always politics, it's turning into a big fight. And I think the effect will eventually come. It's unclear whether it will actually be felt in this 2012 election because of the some of the reasons that I stated about ever
ST. JOHN: Good, so the next year is going to really be pretty interesting. I expect the fronteras desk will be doing a lot of coverage of whether the seeds of greater political influence will actually start to grow in this coming year.
GUIDI: That's right.
ST. JOHN: Well, thank you so much.