Three in four Americans think immigration is good for the economy, according to a new poll. But as the Senate works toward a compromise on immigration reform, border security has proven to be a divisive issue among legislators. Though there is still broad support for immigration reform, Americans are also divided on the role of the contentious issue.
According to a new study by the Pew Research Center and USA Today, an estimated 43 percent of Americans say that undocumented immigrants should only be allowed to seek legal status after the border is secured. But almost half – 49 percent – agree with the Senate Gang of Eight: undocumented immigrants should be able to pursue a path to citizenship while there is a a process of controlling the border.
The dividing lines among the public are partisan in nature. Approximately 60 percent of Democrats fell into the latter category, saying securing the border and implementing a path to citizenship can happen at the same time. On the other hand 56 percent of Republicans said border security comes first.
Perceptions of immigration flows across the border also factored into Americans’ views.
People who think that the number of immigrants coming into the US is higher than it was ten years ago also tended to think that legal status should come after border security. The majority of Americans- 55 percent- believe that is the case. Just 27 percent think the number of undocumented immigrants is the same as it was a decade ago, and even less- 15 percent- think the number is lower today.
But the majority may have the wrong idea about immigration. Recent statistics have shown that there has in fact been a decline in immigrants to the United States in recent years. In April 2012, the Pew Hispanic Center found that net migration from Mexico has fallen to zero and perhaps even lower.
While the public was split on border security, there was one aspect of immigration that most seemed to agree on: benefits to the economy.
Three in four Americans- 75 percent- said that it would be better for the economy for undocumented immigrants to gain legal status and become legal workers. Just half said that granting citizenship would hurt U.S. workers.
These findings come on the heels of a Congressional Budget Office study that provided a big boost for comprehensive immigration reform’s supporters. The report estimated that the immigration bill currently being debated in the Senate would increase the U.S. population by 10.4 million and would decrease federal budget deficits by $197 billion between 2014 and 2023.
The Senate is poised to act on immigration reform this week.
The first vote on the new border security amendment aimed will be on Monday, when senators decide whether to proceed to debate the bill. Senator Reid said he hopes to have a final vote on the bill by the end of the week.