Poll: 72% favor some path to legal status
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