Open Access Honors Program Thesis
Evan Renfro, Honors Thesis Advisor
Jessica Moon, Director, University Honors Program
In today’s politically charged climate, when the subject of immigration is brought up, it is almost always in regard to Latin American immigration in particular. This tends to be the case for everything from the rhetoric surrounding the proposed border wall to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the immigration policy implemented through memorandum by President Barack Obama in 2012 that provided some protections for undocumented immigrants that had been brought to the United States as children, also known as Dreamers. Throughout his campaign and now his presidency, Donald Trump has taken an unprecedented approach to Latin American immigration, often making it the centerpiece of his governance and being unafraid to demonize Latin American immigrants. However, many ordinary Americans share President Trump’s same concerns. For example, according to a July 2019 Gallup poll, nearly three-fourths (seventy-four percent) of respondents considered the “situation at the U.S. border with Mexico” to be either a “crisis” or a “major problem,” just a few months after President Trump declared a national emergency at the border (Gallup 2019a). In contrast, only eighteen percent found the situation to be a “minor problem,” and only seven percent said it was not a problem at all. Similarly, a Gallup poll from February 2019 found that forty-seven percent of respondents found undocumented immigrants to be a “critical” threat to the United States (Gallup 2019b). Thirty percent of respondents said that it was an “important but not critical threat,” and twenty-two percent said it was “not an important threat at all.” It is not uncommon to hear people share reservations about Latin American immigration, often citing economic, cultural, or even racial concerns. However, public perception and policy toward Latin American immigration has not always been this salient. Over the course of the twentieth century, huge shifts in origins of immigrants in the United States occurred. At the beginning of the century, about eighty percent of immigrants were European, with relatively tiny amounts from Latin America. By the end of the century, Europeans made up only sixteen percent of immigrants in the U.S., and over half of all immigrants were Latin American (Timberlake and Williams 2012).
Year of Submission
Department of Political Science
University Honors Designation
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the designation University Honors
1 PDF file (37 pages)
©2020 Erin Thomason
Thomason, Erin, ""Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free": A case study analysis of U.S. immigration policy and public perceptions of Latin American immigrants" (2020). Honors Program Theses. 421.