Over six in ten Republicans want undocumented immigrants to stay in the country legally, but far fewer believe they should be able to apply for citizenship, according to a new poll.
Sixty-four percent of Republicans surveyed by the Pew Research Center say that immigrants living in the U.S. illegally who meet certain requirements should be allowed to remain. But only 32 percent say they should then be eligible for citizenship. Another 29 percent say they should receive permanent residency, short of citizenship, and 34 percent say that undocumented immigrants should not be allowed to stay here.
The poll results show that despite the gridlock blocking an immigration overhaul in Congress, the public broadly supports allowing the estimated 11.7 million undocumented immigrants to stay here legally.
On top of the majority of Republicans who support it, 73 percent of all Americans say that there should be a path to legalization. Support is highest among Hispanics, nine in ten of whom back legal status.
But as always, the issue is with the fine print.
A plurality of Americans — 46 percent — support a pathway to citizenship. At the same time, 24 percent support permanent residency only and 24 percent say that undocumented immigrants should not be allowed to remain in the U.S. legally.
Democrats in Congress almost unanimously back a pathway to citizenship, the core provision of a sweeping, bipartisan immigration overhaul that passed the Senate last year.
But Republican lawmakers remain split. Opponents cite reasons ranging from the rule of law, to an (unfounded) fear that granting citizenship will spawn millions of new Democratic voters. Supporters counter that blocking legalized immigrants from obtaining citizenship would create a permanent subclass of Americans.
The public is also split over the record number of deportations that have occurred under President Obama. Americans are equally divided over whether the increased deportations are a good thing.
Sometime this year, the sixth of Obama’s presidency, the number of people deported will reach 2 million during his administration. By comparison, George W. Bush deported roughly 2 million during his eight years in office.
Despite their backing for legal status, most Republicans (55 percent) back the growing number of deportations. That figure rises to 65 percent among self-described Tea Party Republicans.
The survey confirms the negative attitude towards deportations among Hispanics. Sixty percent view them negatively. Fifty-three percent of Democrats also have a negative view of the increased level of deportations under President Obama.
Obama has come under heavy pressure from Hispanic and immigrant-rights groups to use his executive authority to significantly reduce deportations. The president has balked at such a move, but with legislation stalled in Congress, expect advocates to continue to demand action.