Immigration Reform: Time for a new strategy?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Reforming Immigration Policy
This shipping container was packed with 22 illegal immigrants from China, before U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) discovered it in Seattle. Photo released by ICE for public use.

This shipping container was packed with 22 illegal immigrants from China, before U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) discovered it in Seattle. Photo released by ICE for public use.

HOW BROKEN is our current immigration system? A new consensus on immigration reform seems imminent, but does the system need fixing?

Almost two-thirds of Americans say the current system is completely broken (23%) or broken but still working in some areas (40%), according to a new poll by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). An additional 29% say the system isn’t broken but has big problems.

Is deportation the solution? A majority of Americans (55%) disapprove of deportation as the main emphasis of immigration reform, though a sizable minority (40%) thinks we should get serious about shipping illegal immigrant back to their home countries.

What about self-deportation? This is a euphemism that suggests freedom of choice but really means making things so harsh here that people leave. Self-deportation is not a new idea, but it gained national visibility when the Republican Party in 2012 adopted it as a plank in the party platform. Almost two-thirds of Americans (64%) disagree with self-deportation as a way to fix the system.

What about a path to citizenship? Almost two-thirds of Americans (63%) agree that this is the best option, provided certain requirements are met. Democrats (71%) and Independents (64%) are more likely than Republicans (53%) to view this as the best fix, but majorities in each group favor it. Just under half (45%) of the Tea Party also favors this option.

Surprisingly, few people—across all political affiliations—think that permanent legal residence (not citizenship) is a good choice. Supporters of this option range from a high of only 16% among the Tea Party to a low of 13% among Democrats and Republicans.

There is also a broad swath of agreement across religious lines, as PRRI learned when they sliced the data by religious affiliation. At least seven in ten Hispanic Catholics, Hispanic Protestants, and black Protestants favor a path to citizenship. More than 60% of Jewish Americans, Mormons, white Catholics, and white mainline Protestants also prefer this option. Even a majority of white evangelical Protestants (56%) think this is the best way to fix the immigration system.

Do you think the current immigration system is broken?

Is a path to citizenship the right fix?


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  1. Bob Bruttell says

    We should not underestimate the strain that immigration puts on America and Americans. This is not to say that we should fear it or try to build an inpenetrable wall at our borders. We should recognize however that the kinds of jobs that immigrants often take are back-breaking, dirty, dangerous and pay less than what is needed to underwrite even a lower middle class life in America. It would be better if those jobs had ergonomic standards, were less corrosive, made safer, and paid more. This would have a chance of encouraging other Americans to take these jobs. On the other hand immigrants are demonstrably adaptive and creative. Many studies have found that immigrants have self-selected for industriousness. In addition they bring a wide range of culture to America. Their values – such as their religious values – and their cultures – such as their foods – add much to the American cultural mosaic. Much would be lost without them. Nevertheless it would be good to recognize that all this change – both its good and difficult strains – are real. On balance America would be greatly diminished without a kind and friendly policy toward immigrants.

  2. Tyler Stocks says

    This is an important topic and I recently added my thoughts to a USA Today story on this issue.

    Here is what I said in that exchange and it’s relevant here, too:

    Coming to this country is difficult for many; pursuing stronger legislation that will penalize the children of illegal immigrants only makes the issue worse.

    America was once considered the great melting pot, but assimilation seems to have become the standard.

    We force immigrants to know English and take a citizenship test that many Americans could not pass, and penalize young illegal immigrants who are trying to work or get an education. We must realize our nation is one of immigrants.

    Tyler Stocks; Greenville, N.C.