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Nearly half of Valley adults worry about deportations

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., right, with United Farm Workers president Arturo Rodriguez, left, speaks out against President Donald Trump’s proposals to deport millions of illegal immigrants during a United Farm Workers Union rally in front of the federal courthouse on Jan. 27, 2017 in Fresno, Calif.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., right, with United Farm Workers president Arturo Rodriguez, left, speaks out against President Donald Trump’s proposals to deport millions of illegal immigrants during a United Farm Workers Union rally in front of the federal courthouse on Jan. 27, 2017 in Fresno, Calif. ezamora@fresnobee.com

Nearly half of adults in the central San Joaquin Valley say they are worried a family member or close friend could be deported by immigration officers, according to survey findings released Wednesday by Fresno State’s Institute for Leadership and Public Policy.

The survey shows deportations are a concern to 46 percent of 541 adults interviewed last month across eight Valley counties. Latinos expressed the most concern – 68 percent saying they worry “a lot” or “some” that someone they know could be deported. That percentage is considerably higher than the 47 percent of Latinos nationally expressing similar concern in a Pew Research Center survey in January.

The Migration Policy Institute estimates there are 3 million undocumented immigrants in California and that 12 percent – 356,000 people – live in the Valley.

“Often when there are statewide surveys, the Valley gets left out of the analysis,” said Lisa Bryant, survey director for the Institute for Leadership and Public Policy and an assistant professor of political science at Fresno State. “A lot of surveys done in California come out of the Bay Area or Sacramento.”

We know the San Joaquin Valley in particular has a different relationship with undocumented immigrants than other areas.

Lisa Bryant, survey director for the Institute for Leadership and Public Policy at Fresno State

Bryant is hopeful Fresno State’s findings will help better represent the views of Valley residents in statewide discussions about public policy.

She said the Valley’s economy is “very tied to the labor of undocumented residents.” The survey shows that 63 percent of adults in the Valley think deportations will have a negative impact on the region’s economy compared to 19 percent who think deportations would have a positive impact.

“We know the San Joaquin Valley in particular has a different relationship with undocumented immigrants than other areas.  Farmers around the Valley are concerned about being able to find labor,” Bryant said. “We finally have reprieve from the drought, and farmers may not be able to find workers.”

Surveyors said the Department of Labor estimates about 56 percent of California crop workers are undocumented.

I think people like to have an outlet and feel their voice matters, and this is just another way we can provide that.

Lisa Bryant, survey director for the Institute for Leadership and Public Policy at Fresno State

Manuel Cunha, president of the Nisei Farmers League in Fresno, said his industry is already seeing a decrease in farm workers because many are scared about the possibility of federal immigration audits and raids.

“We need to educate this president on the importance of DACA (deferred action for childhood arrivals) and also on DAPA – the deferred action of the parents – because many of those parents work in my industry and they brought the kids here,” he said.

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Others, however, are not as worried about deportations: 53 percent of those surveyed said they are not concerned about deportations affecting them or someone they know.

“Not surprisingly, Trump supporters are not worried about deportations (90 percent said ‘not much’ or ‘not at all’),” surveyors wrote in a news release about the survey. “In contrast, a significant majority of non-Trump supporters are concerned about deportations (63 percent). There are also clear differences across party lines. A majority of both Democrats (63 percent) and Independents (54 percent) are concerned that they or someone they know could be deported, while most Republicans, 83 percent, are not concerned.”

The Migration Policy Institute estimates there are 3 million undocumented immigrants in California and 12 percent – 356,000 of them – live in the Valley.

The survey also found that 33 percent of non-white, non-Latino groups, including blacks and Asians, are concerned about deportations, compared to 21 percent of whites.

Survey interviews were conducted last month by Fresno State students in English and Spanish (80 percent in English and 20 percent in Spanish) with a random sample of adults in Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tulare counties. The majority of calls were to landlines, 62 percent, and the rest to cell phones, 38 percent. Surveyors say they are 95 confident the results would reflect the views of all adults living in the Valley, with a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4.2 percent.

The questions about deportations were among a number of other issues people were asked about, Bryant said, including health care, immigration, elected officials, infrastructure and water. Bryant said survey findings are being released over the next few weeks. She said the survey is the first to be conducted by the Institute for Leadership and Public Policy, and that the institute hopes to conduct at least two a year.

“I think people like to have an outlet and feel their voice matters,” Bryant said, “and this is just another way we can provide that.”

Carmen George: 559-441-6386, @CarmenGeorge

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