SPLC researchers visited five locations in the South for this report: Nashville, Charlotte, New Orleans, rural southern Georgia and several towns and cities in northern Alabama. More than 500 Latinos — approximately 100 in each location — were interviewed. The author also drew on years of experience working with immigrants in the South and litigating civil rights lawsuits on their behalf.
The SPLC chose to survey low-income Latino immigrants because mounting evidence suggests that this population has been subjected to widespread racial profiling, workplace abuses and other forms of discrimination. This survey was designed to take the pulse of the Latino community in the South, to gain further insight into the impacts of the immigration debate and the punitive, anti-immigrant measures enacted by cities and states in the region.
Numerous previous surveys have been conducted about the demographics and attitudes of Latinos in the United States, particularly by the Pew Hispanic Center. We are not aware, however, of any previous studies assessing the experiences and attitudes of Latinos in the South on matters involving bigotry, exploitation and discrimination.
Because the targeted population is difficult to identify and contact, we used the snowball sampling method, in which study subjects refer researchers to additional subjects. Because study subjects were not chosen randomly, estimates from the survey may be biased.
Respondents were asked questions from a standard survey. Based on their answers, some respondents were asked by a Spanish-speaking researcher to elaborate on their experiences.
In most cases, the survey respondents quoted in this report are identified by their first names only, to protect their identities. In other cases, in which the respondent did not want to be identified in any way, a fictional first name is used. Those names appear in quotes on first reference. Some of the stories told in the report come from plaintiffs in lawsuits filed by the SPLC.
Subjects were not explicitly asked about their immigration status, though a small number, 38, volunteered this information. Of those, roughly one-third were undocumented. Others were U.S. citizens or legal residents. The respondents were not asked specifically whether they were immigrants, but 62 percent (out of 367 respondents who answered this question) said they had arrived in the United States in 2001 or later.