A huge majority of Americans want there to be a way for immigrants living in the US illegally to stay in the country legally, if requirements are met, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center out Monday.
Over the last week, immigration authorities rounded up 680 undocumented immigrants in a record-setting operation, taking place at seven sites in six cities in Mississippi. The raids are believed to be the “the largest single-state immigration enforcement operation in our nation’s history,” according to US Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi Mike Hurst.
The survey was conducted from late July to early August, before the raids in Mississippi, and found 72% of Americans want there to be a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants, while only about a quarter think there should be a national law enforcement effort to deport all undocumented immigrants.
Republicans and Republican-leaning independents mostly agree that there should be a legal way for undocumented immigrants to remain in the US (54%), but that view is on the decline, down 5 percentage points since a March 2017 Pew poll. Almost 9 in 10 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents support a legal way for undocumented immigrants to become citizens, which is steady since 2017.
Republicans are also more apt to back a national law enforcement effort to deport all undocumented immigrants in the US – 42% of all Republicans and Republican-leaning independents and almost half (49%) of conservative Republicans.
But there’s an even split on which party Americans agree with on policies to deal with illegal immigration – 40% say the Democrats, 39% say the Republicans and 19% agree with neither party.
Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are more likely to agree with their own party’s policies (77%) than are Democrats and Democratic-leaners (70%). Liberal Democrats agree more strongly than moderate/conservative Democrats (82% and 61%, respectively) while 85% of conservative Republicans agreed with their own party, compared with 64% of moderate or liberal Republicans.
Americans of different parties also had significantly different priorities regarding the humanitarian crisis at the US border with Mexico.
Seventy-one percent of Democrats and leaning-independents thought it was very important to provide safe and sanitary conditions for asylum seekers, and only 32% of Republicans and leaners said the same. Democrats also prioritized increasing the number of judges handling asylum cases (58% very important) more so than Republicans (45% very important).
Significantly more Republicans than Democrats called it very important to reduce the number of people coming to the US to seek asylum (65% very important for Republicans, 24% for Democrats) and make it harder for asylum seekers to be granted legal status (40% very important for Republicans, 10% for Democrats).
In general, the majority of Americans see the US government as doing a bad job dealing with the increased number of people seeking asylum at the border with Mexico (65% bad, 33% good) – including 44% of Republicans and 84% of Democrats.
The Pew Research Center poll was conducted online July 22 through August 5 among a nationally representative sample of 4,175 adults. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 1.9 percentage points, it is larger for subgroups.