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Public's Attitude Hardens on Illegal Immigrants

5 years ago
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Three-quarters of Americans want to see the number of illegal immigrants decreased and a substantial majority put more priority on stopping illegal immigration than they do in finding a path for immigrants to become legal residents, according to a CNN/Opinion Research poll conducted May 21-23.

The 76 percent who say they want the population of illegals decreased is the highest figure in CNN polls dating back to June 2006 when those holding this view numbered 67 percent.

Sixty percent want the emphasis of the government to be on stopping illegals from entering the country and deporting those who are here compared to 38 percent who want to allow them to become legal residents.

That public sentiment has underlay the political dynamics of the current immigration debate.

U.S.-Mexico BorderDuring the 2008 campaign, President Obama had said immigration reform would be a priority in his first year including a plan to make legal status possible. But Arizona re-ignited the issue when it passed a tough law to crack down on illegal immigrants because its governor said the federal government had failed to do enough to seal the borders. Arizona Sen. John McCain, who in 2006 supported reform that would provide a path to citizenship, has hardened his stand at a time he is facing a primary challenge from an immigration hardliner.

On Tuesday, President Obama announced he would send 1,200 National Guard troops to the southwest border to help efforts to block illegal immigration.

Eight-eight percent in the CNN poll favor putting more Border Patrol and federal law enforcement agents on the border, up from 74 percent in 2006.

Fifty-four percent favored building a 700 mile long fence along the border with Mexico, up from 45 percent in 2006 and 2007.

Seventy-one percent favored imposing fines of tens of thousands of dollars on employers who hire illegal immigrants, up from 58 percent in 2006.

Forty-seven percent would send employers who hire illegals to jail, up from 40 percent in 2006.

Seventy percent back creating an ID card issued by the federal government that U.S. citizens and legal immigrants would have to show to an employer.

Eighty percent back a program that would allow illegal immigrants who have already been living here a numbers of years to stay and apply for legal residence if they had a job and paid back taxes.

Meanwhile, a poll conducted May 20-23 for NBC News and the Spanish-language network Telemundo found that 40 percent of all registered voters would back a Republican candidate who support's Arizona's immigration law compared to 19 percent of Latinos, and 26 percent would back a Democratic candidate who opposes that law compared to 53 percent of Latinos. Thirty-two percent of all registered voters said the issue would not affect their vote and 25 percent of Latinos said the same.

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