POLL: Most Support Legal Immigration, But Want Border Secured and Visa Overstayers Sent Home

April 1, 2013

Most people think legal immigration is good for the U.S.

DENVER – Most Americans believe that legal immigration is good for the country, but they want to see the border secured and illegal immigrants who have overstayed their visas removed from the country, according to Rasmussen Reports public opinion data.

When asked, Generally speaking, when done within the law, is immigration good for America or bad for America?” more than two-thirds of respondents (68 percent) said that such immigration was “good” compared to fewer than one in five (19 percent) who said it was “bad.”

Large majorities of both men (72 percent) and women (64 percent) agreed that legal immigration was good for the country, as did most Republicans (67 percent), Democrats (68 percent), and those who were not affiliated with either of the two major political parties (68 percent).

But public opinion data also reveals that most people want immigration officials to track down and deport the millions of foreigners who have overstayed their visas – a group that experts suggest represents as many as half of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants currently in the country.

When respondents were asked whether the federal government should find visa overstayers and make them go home, 55 percent of respondents said “yes” compared to just 22 percent who said “no.”  Another 23 percent were not sure.

A majority of men (64 percent) and a plurality of women (46 percent) support the deportation of visa overstayers.

Most white respondents (60 percent), as well as a plurality of both black respondents (42 percent) and those not identified as either black or white (43 percent), want to see visa overstayers sent home.

Older voters were more likely to back the removal of visa overstayers, but support was strong among voters of all age groups.

A plurality of respondents between 18 and 39 years of age backed sending overstays home (49 percent) as did a majority of those between the ages of 40 and 64 (58 percent) and those over 65 (57 percent).

Roughly two-thirds of Republicans (67 percent) and unaffiliated respondents (65 percent) also said they want to see those who have overstayed sent home.

Democrats, however, were more divided on the question; with 38 percent favoring sending overstays home, another 33 percent opposing such a policy, and 29 percent who were unsure.

Another Rasmussen survey question asked those who favor a plan to secure the border and grant legal status to illegal immigrants which should come first, a secure border or legal status for illegal immigrants?

Nearly two-thirds, 64 percent, said legal status should come only after the border is secure, compared to just 26 percent who said illegal immigrants should be given legal status right away.  Another 10 percent said they were not sure.

The view that border security should come before legal status for the estimated 12 million illegal aliens currently in the country had majority support among men (67 percent), women (60 percent), as well as Republicans (79 percent), Democrats (51 percent), and those unaffiliated with either of the two major political parties (67 percent).

The “security first” approach was also popular with respondents in all age groups, with a majority of those between 18 and 29 years old (59 percent), 40 and 64 (63 percent), and those over 65 (72 percent) all backing a secure border before legal status for illegal immigrants.

A majority of white (66 percent) and black (64 percent) respondents also backed a stricter approach, as did half of those who did not identify themselves as either black or white (50 percent).

The Rassmussen Reports national polls surveyed 1,000 likely voters between March 20 and March 21, and has a margin of error of + / – 3 percentage points.

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