Poll: California Voters Support Pathway To Citizenship, But Conflicted About Migrant Children

CREDIT: THINKPROGRESS/ ESTHER Y. LEE
CREDIT: THINKPROGRESS/ ESTHER Y. LEE

While a vast majority of California voters support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, they are conflicted about whether migrant children — who recently made headlines after crossing the border in large numbers this year — should be allowed to stay, a new poll indicates. The results come at a time when President Obama has delayed executive action on immigration until the end of the year, stating that the migrant children crisis diminished chances at temporarily fixing the immigration system.

According to a poll by firms on both sides of the ideological spectrum, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and American Viewpoint, which surveyed 1507 registered voters, about three out of four California voters polled support a pathway to legalization for undocumented immigrants, but about half support immediately deporting unaccompanied children without allowing them to first get a hearing, most from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. What’s more, 66 percent of Latinos surveyed believe that migrant children should be allowed to stay in the country for “months or even years while awaiting a hearing,” while 26 percent reported that migrant children should be “immediately sent back to their own country.”

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Children from Central America are entitled to a hearing before they can legally be returned if they express fear of asylum, but the poll question doesn’t explain this element of U.S. law. What’s more, the poll questions do not appear to explain how this legal process works, or that waits for hearings can take months or years because of a backlog in understaffed immigration courts — not the preferences or maneuvering of migrants.

But while voters are split on how to deal with migrant children, 72 percent of Whites and 76 percent of Latinos favor a plan to grant citizenship to undocumented immigrants who fulfill a number of requirements, including paying taxes and a penalty, having no serious criminal record, and going to the back of the line to “work towards citizenship over time.”

“Voters are compassionate to those already here, but they are not open border advocates,” said David Kanevsky, vice president of American Viewpoint, a Republican polling firm which helped conduct the survey earlier this month. “What they don’t want to do is have solutions that encourage more of the same problem.”

The findings conflict with a Public Religion Research Institute survey from July, which found bipartisan support for treating migrant children as refugees, rather than for immediately deporting them. At the time, about seven in ten Americans reported that they they view children as refugees, not illegal immigrants. At least 66,127 migrant children from Central America have already crossed the southern border this year.