Americans broadly embrace the Democratic immigration position — but are divided on Trump’s crackdown

Americans broadly embrace the Democratic immigration position — but are divided on Trump’s crackdown

Originally published by The Washington Post

The weekend’s government shutdown hinged — as Republicans were quick to point out — on a subject not directly related to funding the federal government. After feeling that President Trump reneged on a commitment to support a compromise on the issue of undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children, Democrats opposed a resolution that would have kept the government open, a situation that wasn’t resolved until early Monday afternoon. Those immigrants are still in limbo; the deal the Democrats got was that the Senate would hold some sort of vote addressing those included in the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program by early February.

Trump’s pledge to “take the heat” in support of a compromise that would address the status of those immigrants looked empty when such a compromise was actually presented. First, a proposal from Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) ran into a buzz saw during the notorious meeting in which Trump disparaged the countries of Haiti and El Salvador using a now-infamous bit of vulgarity. Then when Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) came to the White House on Friday to make a deal, the contours of the road map he and the president reached were erased during follow-up calls between Trump and his Chief of Staff John F. Kelly. Instead, the White House was suddenly advocating a much harsher line on immigration.

New Post-ABC polling released Sunday demonstrates that Americans generally agree with the Democrats’ view of immigrants more than the views of those in the White House who pushed for that harder line. Per Graham, that includes White House adviser Stephen Miller, who’s pushed to curtail even legal immigration. Most Americans, though, see immigrants as a boon to the country, making it stronger. More than half of Americans (including more than half of Democrats and independents) say that immigrants make our country stronger.

A plurality of Republicans agree with that sentiment, although more Republicans feel strongly that immigrants make the United States weaker than strongly hold the opinion that immigrants make the country stronger. Half of independents and 6 in 10 Democrats feel strongly that immigrants strengthen our country.


Nearly 9 in 10 Americans think that undocumented residents who came to the country as children should receive the sorts of protections created under DACA. (The poll question read, “Do you support or oppose a program that allows undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States if they arrived here as a child, completed high school or military service and have not been convicted of a serious crime?”)

Two-thirds of Americans strongly support that program. Even three-quarters of Trump’s own party supports the DACA program as described, 46 percent of them strongly.

On Trump’s most high-profile anti-immigration measure — the proposed wall on the border with Mexico — most Americans are skeptical. Driven by heavily negative views from Democrats and independents, more than half the country strongly opposes the idea of building a wall.

For a brief moment, it seemed as though this might be the trade Schumer was willing to make: a wall for DACA protections. (This was politically risky.) That didn’t amount to much.

More than half of Republicans strongly support building the wall. Interestingly, while those who approve of Trump’s job performance agree more strongly that the wall should be built (58 percent of those who approve of Trump strongly support building the wall, compared with 46 percent of Republicans), the overall level of support is about the same, since 74 percent of Trump approvers support building the wall to some extent, compared with 76 percent of Republicans. (A quick aside: 73 percent of those who strongly approve of Trump’s performance as president also strongly support the wall.)

The poll, however, revealed that the aspect of Trump’s immigration policy that’s actually been implemented — a sweeping crackdown on immigrants in the country illegally regardless of any criminal background — sees slightly more support than opposition. (Question wording: “Do you think the federal crackdown on undocumented immigrants is a good thing for the country or a bad thing for the country?”)

Republicans broadly support the crackdown, and independents lean against it. But while more than two-thirds of Democrats say that the crackdown is a bad thing, nearly a quarter say it’s good. Even 22 percent of those who disapprove strongly of Trump’s job as president say that the crackdown on undocumented immigrants is a good thing.

Among those least supportive of the crackdown are Hispanics, only 18 percent of whom think it’s good. Slightly more than a quarter of black Americans say it’s a good thing; nearly 6 in 10 whites agree. Eighty-one percent of Republicans and 87 percent of those who strongly approve of Trump’s job performance also say it’s a good thing.

That finding complicates the picture of how Americans feel about immigration. While the Democratic positions on the wall and on DACA align with the majority of Americans, the effort to deport immigrants living in the country illegally regardless of length of stay or family ties does not meet the same level of opposition.

If the Democrats reach a deal on DACA — by no means a certainty — it would be a significant victory for the party out of power in both chambers of Congress and the White House. That success, though, would apply to only about 700,000 of the estimated 11 million immigrants in the country illegally. These poll results suggest the United States is divided on whether the rest of that group should face deportation.

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