PHOENIX (Reuters) - The intense debate over illegal immigration has made life more difficult for U.S. Hispanics, the fastest-growing minority in the country, with many fearing deportation and having difficulty finding work and housing, study found.
The report by the Pew Hispanic Center released on Thursday found that just over half of all Hispanic adults in the United States worry that they, a family member or a close friend could be deported.
The study, conducted among 2,003 Latinos in October and November, also found that nearly two thirds said the failure of the U.S. Congress to push through an immigration overhaul earlier this year has made life more difficult for Hispanics.
Immigration, particularly the question of what to do with some 12 million illegal immigrants, is a hot button issue in the United States, and the topic has flared frequently in debate among Republican and Democratic candidates jockeying to be their party’s candidate in the presidential election in November 2008.
The survey said smaller numbers of Hispanics -- ranging from about one-in-eight to one-in-four -- said the heightened attention to immigration issues has had a specific negative effect on them personally.
“These effects include more difficulty finding work or housing; less likelihood of using government services or traveling abroad; and more likelihood of being asked to produce documents to prove their immigration status,” the report said.
Of the U.S. population of about 300 million, Hispanics numbered more than 43 million last year, up from 36 million five years ago. Some 18 million are first-generation immigrants, according to figures compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau.
In June, the U.S. Senate rejected a bill seeking tougher border enforcement and a path to legal status for many of the millions of illegal immigrants living in the shadows, most of whom are originally from Latin America.
Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Jackie Frank