As the Hispanic population in the United States expands, Latinos are likely to become more active players in foreign policy debates, particularly on U.S. relations with Latin America. But there are important differences among Latinos in how much weight to give foreign policy issues, which issues to emphasize, and along which avenues to pursue them. Foreign policy approaches will be shaped not only by differences in national origin but also in generation. Two sets of Latino actors are involved in U.S. foreign policy: one, a largely native-born elite that mobilizes sporadically around issues in U.S.-Latin American relations through formal policy channels, and the other composed of Latin American immigrants who are engaged in constant, informal contact with their countries of origin. These two sets of actors have only rarely overlapped substantively or organizationally, with one recent exception: immigration policy.
The potential weight of Latinos in U.S. foreign policy is predicated on their numbers. There are currently more than thirty million persons of Hispanic origin in the United States, and these numbers are rapidly increasing (see table 6.1). By 2025 only two countries will have more persons of Latin American descent living within their borders—Mexico and Brazil. In a few years, then, the United States. will become the third-largest Latin American state. The expectation is that these numbers alone will give Latinos a stake in U.S. relations with Latin America.