No Consensus on Immigration Problem or Proposed Fixes
Americans are increasingly concerned about immigration. A growing number believe that immigrants are a burden to the country, taking jobs and housing and creating strains on the health care system. Many people also worry about the cultural impact of the expanding number of newcomers in the U.S.
Yet the public remains largely divided in its views of the overall effect of immigration. Roughly as many believe that newcomers to the U.S. strengthen American society as say they threaten traditional American values, and over the longer term, positive views of Latin American immigrants, in particular, have improved dramatically.
Reflecting this ambivalence, the public is split over many of the policy proposals aimed at dealing with the estimated 11.5 million-12 million unauthorized migrants in the U.S. Overall, 53% say people who are in the U.S. illegally should be required to go home, while 40% say they should be granted some kind of legal status that allows them to stay here.
But nearly half of those who believe illegal immigrants should be required to leave nonetheless say that some could stay under a temporary work program. Overall, the public divides about evenly among three main approaches for dealing with people who are in this country illegally: 32% think it should be possible for them to stay permanently; 32%
believe some should be allowed to stay under a temporary worker program under the condition that they leave eventually; and 27% think that all illegal immigrants should be required to go home.
There is also a division of opinion over how to stem the flow of illegal immigrants across
the Mexican border. When asked to choose among three options, roughly half of Americans
(49%) say increasing the penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants would be most
effective in reducing illegal cross-border immigration, while a third prefer boosting the
number of border patrol agents. Just 9% of the public says the construction of more fences
along the Mexican border would be most effective.
In general, however, the issue of immigration is not a top-tier problem for most Americans. Just 4% volunteer it as the most important problem facing the country, far fewer than the number mentioning the war in Iraq, dissatisfaction with the government, terrorism, and several other issues.
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