WASHINGTON: More than half of US citizens believe that most or all of the country’s 11 million illegal immigrants should be deported, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released late on Wednesday that highlights the difficulties facing lawmakers trying to reform the US immigration system.
The online survey shows resistance to easing immigration laws despite the biggest push for reform in Congress since 2007. Thirty percent of those polled think that most illegal immigrants, with some exceptions, should be deported, while 23 percent believe all illegal immigrants should be deported.
Only 5 percent believe all illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the United States legally, and 31 percent want most illegal immigrants to stay. These results are in line with other polls in recent years, suggesting that people’s views on immigration have not changed dramatically since the immigration debate reignited in Congress last month, according to Ipsos pollster Julia Clark.
“It’s not Americans’ views that are shifting. It is that the political climate is ripe for this discussion,” after the November election when Hispanics voted overwhelmingly in favor of Democratic President Barack Obama, she said.
“Democrats feel that the time is right to capitalise on their wins and Republicans feel that they had a bad blow and are eager to reach out to Hispanics,” she added. Polls show that most Americans back immigration reform, although they often have different ideas of what that means, with some people favouring looser immigration laws while others want to see greater border security.
A group of eight US senators are working on a bipartisan deal to enact immigration reform, the first major attempt since a similar overhaul died in Congress six years ago. The senators’ proposal calls for a full path to citizenship for illegal immigrants once they pay back taxes and a fine and wait in line behind others applying to become Americans.
A plan by Obama has similar provisions, but the senators want any move to relax immigration laws dependant on boosting security on the southern border.
Attitudes toward immigration are polarised by party, according to another the Reuters/Ipsos poll. Seventy-five percent of Republicans think all or most immigrants should be deported, compared to 40 percent of Democrats who think the same.