Why are Latinos so divided on immigration?

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DREAMers activists

United We Dream activists participate in a rally in front of the White House July 28, 2014 in Washington, DC. The activists urged President Obama not to deport the parents of DREAMers, children who brought illegally to the U.S. and eligible for the Obama Administrations ‘Dream Act’ initiative . (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Despite the furor over immigration reform and the crisis at the border and for DREAMers, the issue appears to register unevenly across the board for Hispanics.

Many say it ranks below issues similar to those most concerning non-Latinos and a new state survey in California shows that immigration is only the 6th-most-important issue for Latino voters in California when casting a vote for a candidate for U.S. Senator or for U.S. Congress.

SEE ALSO: Ted Cruz using young immigrants to bolster his presidential dream

Of course, it has become a rapidly changing issue, especially with the crisis of tens of thousands of unaccompanied Central American children having crossed the Mexican border into the U.S. in recent months and now in custody.

But even on that issue, Latinos are almost evenly split when it comes to how the U.S. government should respond, according to a Pew Research survey.

Protesters gather outside the Mexican Consulate in light of the recent undocumented minors crisis.

Protesters gather outside the Mexican Consulate, Friday, July 18, 2014, in Austin, Texas. Prospects for action on the U.S.-Mexico border crisis faded Thursday as lawmakers traded accusations rather than solutions, raising chances that Congress will go into its summer recess without doing anything about the tens of thousands of migrant children streaming into South Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

What gives? Why is it that an issue so inflammatory in Washington and some parts of the country fails to register strongly enough among Latinos so as to unite them, or even develop a consensus?

The answer is as diverse as America itself – and underscores just how varied Hispanics are in the country.

A 2010 University of Maryland study exploring those divided loyalties revealed “the importance of national origin and ethnic attachment and acculturation in explaining differences among Latinos on their attitudes toward immigration.”

Cuban Americans, Mexican American, Puerto Ricans, and the growing slew of Central Americans – Hondurans, Salvadorans, Nicaraguans – not to mention Argentines, Colombians and other South Americans.

They may share common attributes like the language, religion, food, customs. But, like much of America, they also have an independence politically and on issues such as immigration, fashioned by original nationality and how long they have been in the U.S.

“Mexicans are more pro-immigration than Latinos from other countries, and, foreign-born Latinos have much more positive attitudes about immigration than second-generation and third-generation,” that study reported.

“Latino support for various aspects of immigration is primarily a function of ethnic and linguistic identity and attachment to the American culture, with self interest, contextual variables, and political and demographic attributes playing a smaller, more specialized role.”

A Brown University study supported the same conclusion — a growing diversity among Latino groups in the U.S. that is marked by class and regional differences.

A Pew Hispanic Center study also from 2010 as well reported almost equal divisions among American Latinos on the impact of immigration.

A Pepperdine University report further concluded that as Latino immigrants assimilate into U.S. society and become part of the middle class they come to share the same moderate political and social values and beliefs as all middle class Americans.

“This demographic shift is hastening the arrival of the moment that every migration experiences, when the U.S.-born children of immigrants begin to eclipse their parents,” says the study’s author, Gregory Rodriguez.

It is a sociological phenomenon that unavoidably has also crossed over into controversial issues like immigration and politics itself.

Since January, 23-year-old Crystal Rodriguez has been turning heads in El Paso, though not for the typical reasons that the eyes of Texans would turn to a young woman with a beautiful smile.

“People, they tell me that, ‘I see Republicans as rich old men handling everything,’” says the Texas GOP representative in El Paso. “But then they meet me, and they learn that’s not true.”

David Zapata, the 30-year-old son of Mexican immigrants who runs the party’s Latino outreach, says Rodriguez symbolizes the immeasurable gain by Republicans among Latinos who are divided not only on immigration but also across the board.

“’Voters are great,” he says. “but we need active participants. We need new people, new faces, who will be a permanent part of the party.”

SEE ALSO: Advocates predict there’s a chance to pass immigration reform in 2015

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