Poll: 72% fa­vor some path to le­gal sta­tus

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Katie Shep­herd and Nigel Duara katie.shep­herd@la­times.com nigel.duara@la­times.com Shep­herd re­ported from Los An­ge­les and Duara from Patag­o­nia.

PATAG­O­NIA , Ariz.— A ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans sup­port a path to le­gal sta­tus for im­mi­grants liv­ing in the U.S. il­le­gally if cer­tain re­quire­ments are met, ac­cord­ing to a new poll by the Pew Re­search Cen­ter.

Although the poll ques­tion did not spec­ify what those re­quire­ments might be, 72% of Amer­i­cans agreed there should be a way for such im­mi­grants to gain le­gal sta­tus. When asked to spec­ify, 42% said such im­mi­grants should be al­lowed to ap­ply for ci­ti­zen­ship, and 26% said they should be able to ap­ply for per­ma­nent res­i­dency, not ci­ti­zen­ship.

The sur­vey also touched on a va­ri­ety of other im­mi­gra­tion-re­lated ques­tions, in­clud­ing whether im­mi­grants im­prove the U.S. and whether the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has taken ap­pro­pri­ate steps to mit­i­gate the prob­lem of il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion.

In tiny Patag­o­nia — a tourist town near the U.S.Mex­ico bor­der with no stop­lights and two hotels— res­i­dents weighed in on the Pew study, shar­ing opin­ions based on a long­time fa­mil­iar­ity with im­mi­gra­tion.

Irma Sang and Dianne St­ef­fen, who work at the Patag­o­nia Mar­ket, said there should be some way for peo­ple to achieve le­gal sta­tus in the U.S. They said they were sur­prised to learn that nearly 30% of re­spon­dents in the Pew study did not agree with that idea.

But they also shared some reser­va­tions.

“I agree to a point,” Sang said of cre­at­ing a path to res­i­dency for those in the coun­try il­le­gally. “But just be­cause they’re go­ing to be le­gal, go­ing to get ci­ti­zen­ship, doesn’t mean that they should be al­lowed to col­lect food stamps. The govern­ment doesn’t need to be sup­port­ing them.”

St­ef­fen has a house in Mex­ico and said she found her­self with­out any rights when she ran into le­gal dis­putes there. “Why should they get all the rights when we get none in their coun­try?” she said. Sang nod­ded.

But their con­cerns were of the prac­ti­cal va­ri­ety: If the threat of de­por­ta­tion lessens, they asked, what will the ef­fect be on places that are the first to ab­sorb im­mi­grants? Who will pay for their food, their rent, their util­i­ties? Would they be a bur­den?

“That’s where I get hung up,” St­ef­fen said. “It’s not about them be­ing Mex­i­can — they can be from any coun­try. But why should they get some­thing where the rest of us has to strug­gle?”

Across the street at the Stage Stop Inn, co-owner Lynne Isaac was more blunt. The in­land Bor­der Pa­trol check­points near Patag­o­nia are a has­sle for lo­cal res­i­dents, she said, but serve a pur­pose in catch­ing bor­der­crossers.

“I hope the un­doc­u­ment­eds for­get [the check­points] are there,” Isaac said.

The Pew study touched on per­cep­tions of im­mi­gra­tion’s im­pact. Of the 2,002 re­spon­dents, 51% said im­mi­grants are a boon to the na­tion, mak­ing it stronger through hard work and tal­ents, while 41% said im­mi­grants are a bur­den, tak­ing jobs and re­sources away from Amer­i­cans.

Among Repub­li­cans, 56% said they back a path to le­gal sta­tus. When asked whether im­mi­grants are a bur­den, 63% said yes, and only 27% said im­mi­grants strengthen the coun­try.

In com­par­i­son, most Democrats (62%) and in­de­pen­dents (57%) viewed im­mi­grants as pos­i­tive ad­di­tions to the la­bor pool.

When asked whether pro­vid­ing path­ways to le­gal sta­tus is seen as a re­ward “for do­ing some­thing wrong,” 58% of Repub­li­cans agreed.

Democrats and in­de­pen­dents over­whelm­ingly dis­agreed. Only 23% of Democrats and one-third of in­de­pen­dents said they view le­gal sta­tus that­way.

The poll was con­ducted from May 12 to 18, with a mar­gin of er­ror of plus or mi­nus 2.5 per­cent­age points.

‘Just be­cause they’re go­ing to be le­gal ... doesn’t mean that they should be al­lowed to col­lect food stamps.’

— Irma Sang,

who works in an Ari­zona bor­der town, on giv­ing im­mi­grants in the coun­try il­le­gally a path to le­gal sta­tus

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