Is immigration drowning out other Latino issues?

In a recent commentary, National Institute for Latino Policy President Angelo Falcón wrote, “Although immigration reform affects about 15 percent of the total Latino population, as a public policy issue it now occupies almost all the Latino policy agenda, sucking up, as one colleague recently put it, all the oxygen on Latino issues.”

Falcón questions whether the continued debate about the status of the undocumented population is a distraction from the needs of the much larger pool of Hispanics who are citizens. The Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project estimates that there are 11.7 undocumented migrants in the U.S. By comparison, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the overall U.S. Hispanic population is 53 million.

“I don’t want to minimize the immigration issue,” Falcón said. “But we need to strike a better balance. It (immigration) is stifling the Latino agenda for the 21st century. We have to get to the point where we can walk and chew gum at the same time, and focus on other things like discrimination, education, and the infrastructures in our communities.”

Stella Rouse, assistant professor in government and politics at the University of Maryland, agrees with Falcón – in part. “I think immigration is having that crowding out effect now and has had that effect for years,” she said.