Public Wants to Give Legalization a Chance

Conservatives’ ideas on immigration are pretty simple: Ramp up border enforcement to stop the flow of unauthorized immigrants into the United States and deport the ones already here. It’s not widely enough reported, however, that the public disagrees with this harsh stance.

A recent CNN/ORC poll, for example, asked respondents what the main focus of government policy should be in dealing with this issue. By a 56 percent to 39 percent margin, the public favored developing a plan that would allow undocumented immigrants who have jobs to become legal U.S. residents over developing a plan to stop the flow of unauthorized immigrants and deporting those already here.

Figure 1

Similarly, in an August Washington Post/Kaiser poll, 61 percent of respondents thought undocumented immigrants working and living in the United States should be offered a chance to keep their jobs and apply for legal status, compared to just 35 percent who thought these immigrants should be deported back to their native countries.

Americans think undocumented immigrants should have a shot at legalization

Conservatives may be fixated on deportation, but the public clearly isn’t. Instead, the vast majority of Americans want to give legalization a chance.

Ruy Teixeira is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.