Divide over path to citizenship even for child illegal immigrants

June 17, 2014, 12:08 PM GMT+0

Americans make little distinction between adult and child illegal immigrants when it comes to a path to citizenship

Even though total numbers of illegal immigrants entering the country has dropped since its peak before the financial crisis, growing numbers of illegal immigrants into the United States are children. 60,000 children are expected to be detained by the Border Patrol this year, up from 38,833 in 2013 which was itself 59% higher than 2012's total. This surge may have many causes – including the Obama administration's deferred deportation program for children who have been in the country since 2007 – but the issue poses a dilemma for the federal government, particularly after allegations emerged of abuse and overcrowding at deportation centers housing juveniles.

The latest research for YouGov shows that, for the vast majority of Americans, illegal immigrants should be treated the same when it comes to whether or not they should have their status legalized, regardless of whether they are children or not. YouGov ran two separate surveys with separate respondents. In the first people were asked about illegal immigrants in general and in the second they were questions on the same topics but were asked specifically about child illegal immigrants who were brought into the country through no fault of their own.

From these two surveys, 42% of Americans support a legal path to citizenship for all illegal immigrants, rising only marginally to 45% when asked about children who were brought into the country. 40% oppose a general path to citizenship, while 38% oppose a path to citizenship for children.

Attitudes towards the path to citizenship for all illegal immigrants have been largely unchanged over the past few years, with support for a path to citizenship consistently edging out opposition by a few percentage points since the question was first asked by YouGov in February 2014, when 41% supported a path to citizenship and 38% opposed it.

Support for a path to citizenship is highest among Democrats (60%) and lowest among Republicans (26%). This picture is complicated, however, by regional disparities that don't cleanly correlate with partisan affiliation. The Northeast (where Barack Obama carried every state in both 2008 and 2012) is the only region of the country which tends to oppose a path to citizenship, with 49% against it and only 32% in favor. The West – which has the largest population of illegal immigrants in the country – is most supportive, with 48% in favor and 36% against a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Major figures in both parties have agreed for some time that immigration reform is needed to resolve the status of the more than eleven million illegal immigrants living in the US, but yet another expected push on the issue has been derailed, in part by Eric Cantor's shock loss in his primary race which has been blamed in large part on the unpopularity of his stance on immigration reform.

Full poll results can be found here and here.

Image: Getty