(A new Pew poll finds Latinos and Asians think relief from the threat of deportation is more important than a pathway to citizenship for U.S. undocumented immigrants. Photo/AP Images)

New poll: Deportation relief more important than path to citizenship

U.S. Latinos as well as Asian Americans think it is more important to be able to live and work in the U.S. without the threat of deportation than it is to have a pathway to citizenship, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project.

By a margin of 55 percent to 35, Latinos think deportation relief takes precedence over citizenship. For Asian Americans, it’s 49 to 44 percent.

RELATED: Fewer deportations in 2013, according to latest ICE figures

For immigrant Hispanics, a halt to deportations over citizenship is even higher – 61 percent to 27 percent.  Among U.S.-born Hispanics, it’s 48 to 44 percent.

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Latinos and Asian Americans account for two-thirds of the country’s 28 million legal immigrants.  According to Pew estimates, Latinos account for about 3/4  of the additional 11.7 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

For both groups, immigration is not their top priority.  It ranks fifth behind other concerns such as jobs and the economy, education, health care and the deficit. Yet seven-in-ten Latinos (69 percent) say it is extremely or very important that immigration reform legislation be passed this year.  Among Asian Americans, the number is 44 percent.

This year the Senate passed a sweeping bipartisan immigration reform bill which included a 13-year pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants; the Republican-led House is ending 2013 without proposing and voting on broad immigration legislation.

When asked about the Senate bill, almost nine-in-ten Latinos and over seven-in-ten Asian Americans support the 13-year pathway to citizenship. Moreover, 76 percent of Hispanics and almost six-in-ten Asians think granting legal status to undocumented immigrants would strengthen the U.S. economy.

On the other hand, 53 percent of Latinos and almost half (48 percent) of Asian Americans say this citizenship pathway would reward illegal behavior.

The push for immigration reform legislation has dominated the political headlines this year, with polls showing a majority of Americans support changes in immigration law and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

RELATED: As President makes another push for immigration reform, poll finds majority support path to citizenship

After the passage of the comprehensive Senate bill, a number of key bipartisan groups – business, labor, agriculture, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and evangelicals, among others – came out in support of the overhaul to he nation’s immigration laws.  The last couple of months have seen an even more intensified push for immigration reform, with advocates and supporters holding hunger fasts, sit-ins in Congressional offices and rallies in front of Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s office.

RELATED: Activists end fast without an immigration vote; new fasters take over

If the Senate immigration bill bill fails to become law, 43 percent of Latinos and 48 percent of Asian Americans would mostly blame Republicans, according to the new poll.  Thirty four percent of Hispanics and 29 percent of Asian Americans say they would mostly blame the Democrats and/or President Obama.

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