U.S. citizenship candidates take the oath of citizenship at a naturalization ceremony at the Los Angeles Convention Center on August 23, 2012 in Los Angeles. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

U.S. citizenship candidates take the oath of citizenship at a naturalization ceremony at the Los Angeles Convention Center on August 23, 2012 in Los Angeles. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Poll: Americans believe undocumented immigrants should stay, but divided on citizenship issue

As the path to immigration reform heads towards upcoming legislation, Americans are once again in support of allowing undocumented immigrants to receive legal status, but are more divided when it comes to a path to citizenship, a new poll by Pew Research says. 

More than 7 in 10 Americans (71 percent) say there should be a way for people in the United States illegally to remain in this country if they meet certain requirements, while 27 percent say they should not be allowed to stay legally.

But when it comes to a pathway to citizenship, 43 percent of the public supports it, while 24 percent draw the line at legal residency without citizenship.

The differences in the numbers were more stark when broken down by ethnicity. More than 80 percent of blacks and Hispanics each believe undocumented immigrants should receive legal status, while half of each support eventual citizenship.

Meanwhile, 67 percent of non-Hispanic whites say undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay in the country legally, while 31 percent say they should not. Four in 10 whites support citizenship.

A pathway to citizenship for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country has long been a point of contention, with House and Senate hearings looking at whether immigration reform can be accomplished without it.

RELATED: Senate hearing on immigration reform touches on human cost of the debate

In an interview with Telemundo’s Lori Montenegro, President Obama reiterated his commitment to a pathway to citizenship and said the eventual bill will include it.

“The most important thing is that we’re seeing a strong commitment to finally solve this problem in a way that strengthens our border security, makes sure that there’s a pathway to citizenship,” he said.  ”An earned one, a tough one, but a pathway so that people can live out their dreams and make sure that they have a better life for themselves and their kids.

When polled, 49 percent of Americans said they believe all immigrants, regardless of status, strengthen the country because of their hard work and talents. Forty-one percent said immigrants are a burden because they take jobs, health care and housing. Additionally, 52 percent say immigrants in the U.S. strengthen society, while 43 percent say the influx threatens traditional American values and customs.

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