Immigration polls slide after bombing, border enforcement concerns

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Three new polls show strong or increasing public skepticism towards immigration, even as majorities offer conditional support for a regulated amnesty for illegal immigrants.

A New York Times poll released May 1 shows shows that 43 percent of respondents believe that illegal immigrants should receive citizenship. That’s down eight points from January. Opposition to citizenship rose from 24 to 32 percent.

A May 2 Quinnipiac University poll showed a seven-point drop since April — from 59 percent to 52 percent — in the proportion of voters who said that illegal immigrants should be allowed to apply for citizenship.

“Illegal immigrants should be required to leave, 30 percent of voters say, up from 25 percent four weeks ago,” added a statement from the polling institute.

One possible cause of the decline was the bombing in Boston, said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Twenty-three percent of respondents said the bombing had changed their “opinion regarding whether there should be a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants currently living in the United States,” according to the poll.

“It is not a big change, but it is a change,” said Brown.

These increasingly skeptical attitudes, however, are accompanied by a high level of stated support for a regulated legalization.

Sixty-three percent of adults in an April Washington Post/ABC poll said they would support granting illegals “the right to live here legally if they pay a fine and meet other requirements.”

Eighty percent of respondents in The New York Times poll said they would favor “providing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants in the United States if they met certain requirements, like paying fines and back taxes, passing criminal background checks and learning English.”

Yet the Washington Post poll, released Wednesday, also showed continued public skepticism over whether the government will comply with its side of a legalization-for-enforcement bargain.

It showed that 63 percent of people supported a conditional amnesty, but only 28 percent of all respondents favored the policy prior to the establishment of stringent border controls.

Sixty-seven percent of respondents want more spending on border security and 83 percent want companies to identify and exclude illegal immigrants, the poll said.

The discordant results exist because groups of Americans want different actions on immigration, yet their wishes sometime overlap, Brown said.

“Immigration is a very nuanced issue … Americans want to be welcoming [and] they are also very, very unhappy with the inability to stop increased illegal immigration across the borders,” Brown said.

“There is no trust at all that the federal government will actually enforce any provisions on border security,” pollster Scott Rasmussen told The Daily Caller.

An April poll that he conducted showed that only 9 percent believe “it is very likely the government will enforce the laws,” he said.

To win passage of an immigration bill, “you’re going to have to convince people that the government will actually follow the law,” Rasmussen said.

“The most overlooked part of the debate is that people are not angry at immigrants who come here — they understand why someone would want to come here — they’re angry at the federal government for not enforcing the law and because [it seems to be] actively engaged in policies to encourage immigration,” he said.

“We’re a nation of immigrants, we’re a nation of laws, and we want both of the pillars to be honored,” Rasmussen said.

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Neil Munro