Report: 6 Obstacles Latinos Face

Latinos face discrimination when it comes to education and housing.

August 09, 2013, 1:02 PM

Aug. 9, 2013— -- If someone tells you Latinos don't face discrimination, they're lying. The fastest growing demographic in the country over indexes when it comes to jail houses and pregnant teenagers, but falls short when it comes to boardrooms and graduate degrees. That's because Hispanics face roadblocks to success that other people, especially white men, don't have to worry about.

Latinos continue to face discrimination when it comes to fair treatment at work and accessing higher education, according to a report from The American Bar Association's Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights and Responsibilities set to be unveiled next week.

"Despite their individual and group achievements, Latinos have yet to fully share in the benefits afforded to other members of the broader community in the United States," reads the report's introduction. "[I]t appears that there continue to be significant obstacles to equal and fair treatment for the majority of Latinos."

That's not to say that every Latino feels marginalized, but as the report notes, a 2009 Pew Research Center survey found that 70 percent of adults think Latinos face a lot or some discrimination.

While immigrants, particularly the undocumented, may face more discrimination and have fewer legal protections, the report says Latinos in general, even those who were born and raised here, face discrimination over things like skin color, language skills, and income and education levels.

Here are six other ways discrimination against Hispanics manifests itself:

1. Employment

Latinos face harassment at work, according to the report, including wage theft and sometimes the threat of deportation. Latinos are more likely to hold low-paying jobs and to work in the service industries, and they are underrepresented when it comes to boardrooms and managerial positions. The report found that Latina women, especially, face gender discrimination and are intimidated into not reporting unfair working conditions. The report also says that minimum wage law violations are "widespread." Latinos are also more likely to work in jobs that require the use of heavy machinery or in fields where they are exposed to pesticides, and they often have trouble accessing legal help to report abuses.

2. Housing

Segregation may not be a sanctioned policy anymore but it's very much alive. Latinos and African Americans are more likely to live in neighborhood with lower homeownership rates, higher poverty rates and even fewer grocery stores and transportation options. Latinos have also been disproportionately affected by the foreclosure crisis, the report points out. Some of that has to do with predatory lending practices and some of it from pure discrimination, according to the report.

3. Education

Latinos make up the second largest group of students in schools, and they are the fastest growing population. But Latinos are also underrepresented when it comes to placement in advanced classes and college attendance. The report alleges that "by all measures the educational system is failing to adequately serve the needs of Latino students, and prepare them for civic life."

It also asserts that there is a "growing sense among Latino students of despair, and disenchantment with American society." Just as with housing, many Latino students attend largely segregated schools with lower graduation rates and fewer resources than their white peers. Latino students are also more likely to drop out. If a student feels hopeless and like the system is failing him, there's little reason in his mind to continue to graduation.

Top colleges also have a tough time connecting with high-achieving poor students, and undocumented people face obstacles like high tuition in states that don't offer them in-state prices. Latinas, too, are often expected to assume caretaking roles at home, according to the report, which can limit their education options.

4. Health

Latinos face barriers when it comes to accessing quality healthcare, according to the report. Aside from the fact that Latinos are disproportionately uninsured, they also have trouble finding doctors who speak Spanish, if that's something they want, and what the report calls "culturally competent service." They are also more likely to have diabetes and certain types of cancer, which is especially dangerous given that many uninsured people don't have the ability to access the regular care they need to manage and treat such conditions.

5. Criminal Justice

Hispanics are "disproportionately impacted by the abuses and biases in the existing criminal justice system, both as victims and as the accused," according to the report. Nationwide, Latino incarceration rates are nearly double those for whites, and there is a lack of adequate legal representation, the report says, especially when it comes to helping Spanish speakers and undocumented immigrants.

Latinos and African Americans face "aggressive police practices," according to the report. For example, the Supreme Court upheld Arizona's "show me your papers" law that allows officers to check the immigration status of suspects. The Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division also found that the East Haven, Connecticut police force discriminated against Latinos, treating Hispanic drivers more harshly and targeting them for traffic enforcement. Many civil rights organizations have also objected to "stop and frisk" policies like the one in New York City that allows police to to stop, question and sometimes frisk people in high-crime neighborhoods.

6. Voting Rights

Latinos are significantly underrepresented when it comes to holding elected office and there are some people who would like to keep it that way. Redistricting efforts and outright voter suppression tactics such as voter roll purges and voter ID laws that disproportionately impact minorities have been used by politicians, mostly Republicans, in recent years.

While they argue they're trying to prevent voter fraud, which is almost nonexistent, Latinos and civil rights leaders say they are actually trying to disenfranchise Hispanics who are more likely to vote Democratic.

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