More Recent Latino Immigrants Have College Degrees, But There’s a Hidden Cost

Latino immigrant College Education

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By Angela Lang

April 14, 2020

26% of Latinos arriving in the U.S. within the past 5 years have a college degree compared to 18% in the broader Latino population. Could this change Latinos’ place in the U.S. society?

Latino immigrants to the United States are arriving with historically high levels of education. Among recent Latino immigrant adults 25 or older, 1 in 4 arrived in the U.S. with a bachelor’s degree or higher, a trend that varies by state.

For instance, in Florida 34% of recent Latino immigrants have a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 19% in California. These figures include Hispanic immigrants from Mexico, Cuba, Spain, Venezuela, and other Latin American countries but it does not include Puerto Ricans who are not considered foreign-born, thus they do not reflect their migration from the island to the U.S. mainland, which dramatically increased in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017, including many with college degrees.  

While there is still a gap between the level of advanced education among recent Latino immigrants compared to the 1 in 3 rate of U.S. adults 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or higher, the increase in college degrees and access to high-skills jobs among the recent arrival Latinos is good news.

However, this trend has to be understood within the context of the immigration positions and policies of the Trump administration of the last 3 years and the reality of the place of Latinos in the U.S. society and economy.

RELATED: The Effect Of COVID-19 On College Admissions For Latinos

Since the early days of his administration, President Trump has proposed a shift from a family-focused immigration system, which historically has given preference to individuals who are related to U.S. citizens, toward a merit-based system. The Trump merit-based immigration plan would award points to applicants, giving preference to younger and those with valuable skills or advanced education. 

While Trump’s hostility toward people of color and immigrants has been in broad display for decades and certainly during his presidency, it is interesting to note that the proposed immigration plan actually does little to change the number of immigrants, rather it focuses on changing the criteria. 

These educational trends among recent Latino immigrants could already reflect a chilling effect of Trump’s rhetoric on prospective foreign-born Latino immigrants.  

As the coronavirus continues to move through the United States, the extent to which the U.S. economy and American lifestyle depends on the labor of people of color has become painfully evident. 

For instance, as alarms are raised about impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the food supply that Americans are accustomed to, little is being said about the people whose labor make these industries possible and affordable.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 63% of farm laborers, graders and sorters in the U.S. are Hispanic and more than half do not have a high school diploma. More importantly, about half of them lack legal immigration status.

To the Latinos who arrived recently with college degrees and professional career aspirations, welcome, however, be aware of the racist rhetoric and political positions that have enabled your move to the U.S.

Unfortunately, Trump’s position on immigration falsely claim to strengthen our economy by swinging open the doors for highly educated people, while ignoring the fact that our survival depends diversity of skills and specifically on the labor of Latinos who are forced to live in the shadows and under constant threat of deportation. Hispanics in the U.S. are far from monolithic, but we must value and appreciate what connects us and do the work needed to lift each other up.

RELATED: Trump Uses Coronavirus to Shut Down Asylum System at U.S. Borders



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