Americans want immigrants to stay but still split on path to citizenship


Activists rally for immigration reform Nov. 8, 2012 in Washington, D.C. Minority voting blocs, long strongly Democrat, will only become more influential in the coming decades.


Mark Wilson

A strong majority of Americans agree that the undocumented immigrants who are already living and working in the US should be allowed to stay but are split on whether they should have a path to citizenship.

A new Pew Research Center poll found that more than 70 percent of Americans say that undocumented immigrants should remain in the US if they meet certain conditions. 

Out of that group, only 43 percent of those think they should be given a path to citizenship. Nearly a quarter (24 percent) think they should be given a path to legal residency only.

Twenty-seven percent of those surveyed don't think undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay in the US at all.

Though most still support undocumented immigrants remaining in the country, public opinion changes when broken down along ethnic lines.

Support for legal citizenship was high among African Americans and Hispanics. Eight-in-ten non-Hispanic blacks (82 percent) and 80 percent of Hispanics say those in the country already should be allowed to stay if they meet certain requirements.

That number fell to 67 percent for non-Hispanic whites.

Politically, the support was fairly even among Democrats and Republicans with 76 percent of Democrats, 70 percent of independents and 64 percent of Republicans say illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay.

In an interview Wednesday with Telemundo’s Lori Montenegro President Barack Obama reiterated that any immigration bill coming up in Congress will include a path to citizenship.

"The most important thing is that we’re seeing a strong commitment to finally solve this problem in a way that strengthens our border security, makes sure that there’s a pathway to citizenship," he said.

"An earned one, a tough one, but a pathway so that people can live out their dreams and make sure that they have a better life for themselves and their kids."

In 2011, there were about 40 million immigrants in the United States. About 28 percent of that total, 11.1 million people, were in this country illegally.