Immigration

Most Americans Favor a 'Pathway to Citizenship' for Undocumented Immigrants

55 percent of Americans say they favor providing a "pathway to citizenship" for undocumented immigrants and 56 percent say that simplifying the process for legal immigration is the best way to reduce illegal immigration.

|

You wouldn't be able to tell from federal policy, but most Americans have a favorable view of immigrants, and a majority believes that improving opportunities for immigrants to come here legally would be better than beefing up border security and cracking down on illegal immigrants.

Those are two of the major findings from a new survey of Americans' views on immigration policy conducted by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. The survey, which polled 2,600 adults and was released Tuesday, shows that 72 percent of Americans believe immigrants come to the U.S. to "find jobs and improve their lives" while only 27 percent believe that immigrants are primarily attracted by the promise of taxpayer-funded welfare programs. Similarly, 53 percent of immigrants and the children of immigrants say their families came to the U.S. for economic opportunity, while just 8 percent say they sought to tap into government aid.

When it comes to setting policies, 55 percent of Americans say they favor providing a "pathway to citizenship" for undocumented immigrants and 56 percent say that simplifying the process for legal immigration is the best way to reduce illegal immigration. Only 24 percent say they would like to deport undocumented immigrants rather than allowing them to become full citizens or permanent residents.

Overall, the Cato immigration survey shows that Americans' views on immigration are more nuanced and complex than what is usually captured by media and politics. Partisanship is a factor—self-identified Democrats, for example, are far more likely to view immigration favorably—but the survey suggests that both Republican and Democratic administrations may be overestimating the extent to which Americans support harsh treatment of illegal immigrants, as well as underestimating the support for streamlining legal immigration.

Anti-immigrant rhetoric has become more prominent on the political right in recent years, and restrictions on both legal and illegal immigration were hallmarks of former President Donald Trump's administration (though former President Barack Obama actually deported more people). President Joe Biden has condemned Trump's approach, but so far has done very little to reverse those policies. Last week, for example, the Biden administration said it would not increase the annual cap on refugees allowed into the United States—which Trump had cut dramatically—before abruptly changing course after a public backlash. The Biden administration has also continued construction on Trump's much-ballyhooed border wall, and it has not put an end to policies that separate refugee families when they are apprehended while crossing the border.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D–N.J.) and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D–Calif.) have introduced bills in Congress outlining an eight-year process for undocumented immigrants to become U.S. citizens. Their proposals have the backing of the Biden administration but face an uncertain future in Congress.

The biggest obstacle for the Biden administration's immigration reform agenda might not be public or political opposition, but the president's competing policy goals. As David Bier, an immigration policy analyst for the Cato Institute, wrote for Reason earlier this year: "Presidents Obama and Trump both campaigned promising immigration changes. Both had the advantage of a friendly Congress. But neither wanted immigration reforms to upset prospects for their other major priorities…[Biden is] also beholden to a complex interwoven system of partisan priorities that could cause him to turn his back on immigration—or enthusiastically embrace it—later in his presidency, depending on what else is going on."

For now, that means federal immigration policy is likely to remain out of step with the views of most Americans. And while the loudest voices demanding the biggest walls are likely to continue to exercise undue influence within immigration politics, it's useful to keep in mind that they represent a distinct minority of the country.

NEXT: Report: FBI Misused Foreign Surveillance Powers To Investigate Domestic Crimes

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Libertarianism 2021: Top Men and Border Walls. Girlfriend, you’ve changed.

    1. Does this country really need more people? The citizens of this country should have a say on who and how many are allowed in and those laws should be enforced. I do not think the average citizen is clamoring for more immigrants. This pathway to citizenship thwarts each of these points so I doubt the validity of the poll – so if asked a different way – you would get a much different result.

      1. Making money online more than 15$ just by doing simple work from home. I have received $18376 last month. Its an easy and simple job to do and its earnings are much better than regular office job and even a little child can do this and earns money. Everybody must try this job by just use the info
        on this page…..VISIT HERE

    2. I don’t believe the numbers – 55% approve. What those folks don’t know is the count of illegal aliens. Not the 11 million purported and flaunted in the last 20 years. My own estimate (taken from my sources, maybe the same ones as the govt – i.e. taken from my backside) is at least 20M, probably fewer than 25M. All waiting to be supported in a better manner than they are now. Who has asked me if I mind supporting them? No one has asked me.

      I wonder why there is not a really huge influx of Chinese people into the U.S.? We should be able to take 10M annually forever. But the Dems do have LIMITS for those folks – each Chinese can bring in only one civet, and no more than 10 wild bats. But not the Wuhan lab bats of course.

      1. The Key — “2,600 adults” polled. LMFAO… My single graduating class covered more adults than their cherry picked survey.

    3. Open borders. Not open wallets.

  2. I fall squarely in the ‘Allow them to become permanent residents’ camp. Once they do that, I could see a pathway forward to become citizens eventually, after meeting certain requirements. I would let their kids become citizens, provided that they arrived here under a certain age. 14 maybe? Obviously if they were born here.

    I also fall under the group of people who believe that the best way to reduce illegal immigration is to reform our legal immigration process to make it simpler, easier, and above all, much faster. Once we do that, and take care of the majority of the illegal immigrants through the permanent resident / eventual citizen route, we would have more justification to enforce the laws we have against illegal entry.

    1. I agree, at least in the broad strokes, of what you are saying.

    2. Good suggests. I think Presidents want to do big things and changing immigration policy doesn’t have the prestige of healthcare or infrastructure. This may explain why it is pushed down the list and then lost as the political capital runs out.

    3. When I first went to Guatemala the people in small villages had to travel to a large one to a post office to make a phone call. Now everyone has a cell phone. If we make it easy to come, there will be tens of thousands here in weeks. They have the money to travel, know how to get here, and what to say when they arrive.
      Some people live in a fantasy world where immigrants come in ships or in long wagon trains. Now they come by bus, train, or by air. The world is different now. The average Mexican has, according to the Mexican government website, 7.2 years education.
      What will they do when they get here? Will they earn the new federal minimum wage? Will they need financial support?

      1. He’s handwaving. He wants the issue to be simpler, easier, faster, and more trustworthy. Presuming he’s libertarian/fiscally conservative, he wants to do all of the above without throwing any more money at the issue. Presuming he’s not, he wants to do all of the above by throwing more money at the issue.

        I know multiple Canadians who received a green card virtually immediately upon entry into the country and were citizens within 4 yrs. Should the average wait be 4yrs. acceptable as long as they have a green card? Should people who don’t have a spouse waiting for them in country wait longer? What about people whom everyone, their government and ours is completely unable to identify whether they have a spouse or not?

        He wants a no-wait, custom-tailored, one-size-fits-all approach.

        1. Should the average wait be 4yrs. acceptable as long as…

          Should the average wait be <4yrs.? Is >4yrs. acceptable as long as…

          Fucking HTML.

      2. Why would they not come? It makes economic sense to do so, especially for the poorest and least educated. They can certainly have a higher standard of living on benefits here than they had in their home countries.
        The big problem is that there are vast numbers of poor and illiterate people in the world. If, just as an example, 100 million of the poorest central and south Americans showed up at the border, things would not improve markedly in their home countries, but we would be overwhelmed.

    4. I also fall under the group of people who believe that the best way to reduce illegal immigration is to reform our legal immigration process to make it simpler, easier, and above all, much faster.

      We should make it simpler, easier, and above all, much faster for unicorns to immigrate into this country so we can harvest their farts.

      1. I’ve heard unicorn farts aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Anyway, we could also reduce illegal immigration by making all immigration legal. EZ PZ

    5. “I fall squarely in the ‘Allow them to become permanent residents’ camp. ”

      My plan is voluntary deportation then apply normally through proper channels for legal immigration and we won’t hold prior immigration violations* against you.

      *A non-immigration related criminal record is a different story.

      “I also fall under the group of people who believe that the best way to reduce illegal immigration is to reform our legal immigration process to make it simpler, easier, and above all, much faster. ”

      It also needs to be more readily available and country of origin specific limits/quotas should be ended.

      1. My plan is voluntary deportation then apply normally through proper channels for legal immigration and we won’t hold prior immigration violations* against you.

        *A non-immigration related criminal record is a different story.

        ^^^^
        This

        1. Amen.

          Leave now and I’m willing to give you a second chance to apply legally.

  3. If you meet a libertarian on the street, punch him in the face. He’ll know why.

    1. Obviously, because lefturds are violent degenerates.

      -jcr

  4. >>self-identified Democrats, for example, are far more likely to view immigration favorably

    duh. from where dafuq else will they get The Help?

  5. Most Americans also expect someone else to pick up the tab for this.

  6. Overall, the Cato immigration survey shows that Americans’ views on immigration are more nuanced and complex than what is usually captured by media and politics.

    Insightful commentary on the realistic implications of Americans’ views, brainless crafting of noise (what happens to the people who don’t meet whatever criteria 55% of Americans don’t necessarily agree on), or commentary about the media’s utter inability to capture and portray even superficial facts and reasoning? You decide!

  7. Illegal Aliens. Call them what they are.

    1. Despite the fact that anti-immigrant types have been laying out how immigrants of all stripes might “meet certain requirements” for >40 yrs., Cato/Reason is just now discovering that not everyone is opposed to immigration.

      Convenient that they couldn’t do it when Trump laid it out.

    2. But they aren’t aliens, they are Earthlings…. 🙂

      1. Again, ‘(illegal) foreign nationals’.

  8. Gotta get more dem voters, before the wily GOP redistricts.

  9. 55 percent of Americans say they favor providing a “pathway to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants and 56 percent say that simplifying the process for legal immigration is the best way to reduce illegal immigration.

    So if you immigrating here legally allows you to become a citizen and immigrating here illegally provides you with a “pathway to citizenship”, what difference does it make whether you immigrate here legally or illegally? Sounds to me like “the best way to reduce illegal immigration” is simply to declare all immigration to be legal. Kinda like we could eliminate all car theft via the simple expedient of declaring it legal to steal cars.

    1. Basically, that’s my reading of it as well.

      The fact is there’s already a legal pathway to citizenship, so what ‘most Americans’ think is a good idea apparently already exists.

      There’s quite a difference between a ‘pathway to citizenship’ and ‘automatic citizenship for everyone’.

      And even if there was a ‘pathway’ to citizenship, the natural assumption would be that some people wouldn’t manage to walk all the way down it and wouldn’t become citizens even with whatever new system gets put in place.

      Thus ‘illegal immigration’ would still exist in any universe, except the one where literally all immigrants are automatic citizens.

      Something tells me 55% of American’s don’t think that’s a great idea.

      1. What needs to be acknowledged is that those “certain requirements” will be treated like the promised “increased border security” that has been a feature of past amnesties.
        In other words, NEVER HAPPEN.
        Bottom line is that illegal aliens, here, now, intentionally broke, and are currently breaking, our laws – and that includes the “dreamers”.
        Anything that gives them a benefit from doing so not only is a slap in the face of those, waiting to be admitted, legally, but thumbs its nose at the concept of the rule of law.

        1. Bottom line is that illegal aliens, here, now, intentionally broke, and are currently breaking, our laws – and that includes the “dreamers”.

          All marijuana users prior to 10 years ago (or so) were breaking the law. All owners of “assault weapons” that were manufactured between 1994 and 2004 were breaking the law. All black people using “white only” water fountains in the 1950s were breaking the law.

          As libertarians, we should question every law and whether it’s enactment is protecting someone’s fundamental rights. I can’t think of a fundamental right of mine that immigration violates. So, under what authority can we as a society enact such a law?

      2. Thus ‘illegal immigration’ would still exist in any universe, except the one where literally all immigrants are automatic citizens.

        And even this isn’t the extent of the ‘borders are just imaginary lines’ crowd; why not simply grant automatic citizenship to the globe?

    2. Sounds to me like “the best way to reduce illegal immigration” is simply to declare all immigration to be legal. Kinda like we could eliminate all car theft via the simple expedient of declaring it legal to steal cars.

      Your starting assumption here seems to be that legal immigration is bad, like car theft in your analogy. We decide as a society that car theft is bad because it infringes on the property rights of the car owner, and thus we have justification to make it illegal. What’s the fundamental premise to decide that immigration is bad, let alone taking the next step of making some of it illegal and all of it highly regulated?

      1. Your starting assumption here seems to be that legal immigration is bad

        Oh nihilist Bullwinkle! That trick never works!

  10. Poor Boehm. He’s still a liar.

    Great news! Census 2020 results are out. NC, FL, CO, and OR gain 1 seat in the House, Texas gains 2.

    Commifornia, NY, PA, MI, IL, WV, and OH all -1 seats.

    Poor commies in America.

    1. and Montana gained a House seat.

      New York lost their House seat by 89 people. HAHAHAHA.

      1. If NY knew they were down by 89, they would’ve come up with more fake entries.

        Same thing they do with absentee ballots.

    2. Too bad California only lost one seat.

      1. Proof that loveprostitution has multiple socks and is likely retarded

      2. It moved to Oregon, so nothing really changed there.

  11. oo bad California only lost one seat.

    1. Proof that loveprostitution has multiple socks and is likely retarded

  12. We should reinstate the constitutional requirement of 1 representative for 50000 citizens. That would give over 6000 reps. If they can’t fit them in in D.C. They can work from home. I doubt if that many could agree on anything.

    1. Which requirement is that again?

      There is one that says no *more* than 1 per 30,000, i.e., you can’t have 50,000 people and 3 Representatives, but since there is a minimum of 1, even a state with 25k people would still get one represntative. It says nothing about *less* than.

      ” The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative”

      1. There was a proposed inclusion to the Bill of Rights, actually the first one, to the effect that there should be one representative for each 50,000.
        There has been dispute about whether it was ratified, and if the language was clear, but that was the intention of the First Congress, after the Constitution was ratified.
        Go to http://www.boldtruth.com/

    2. I’d be in favor of that if, and only if, congresscritters received no compensation whatsoever from federal taxes, and if they were paid at all, their salary and expenses would come entirely from the district they represent, on a voluntary and anonymous basis.

      I’d love to see someone like AOC get her funding slashed to nothing overnight when she pulls a stunt like keeping a major employer from opening an office in her district.

      -jcr

  13. Since I started vvith my 0nline business, I earn $25 every 15 minutes. It sounds unbelievable but you won’t forgive yourself if you don’t check it out.

    Learn more about it here..

    ……………………… http://www.Cash44.club

  14. I wonder how much of this is down to the media’s unrelenting spin on immigrants as just wonderful folks, and their purposeful conflation of legal and illegal immigrants?

    1. 55% support pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Seems pretty clear what’s being talked about. And if you don’t like immigrants there is plenty of media out there to confirm your biases.

  15. “55 percent of Americans say they favor providing a “pathway to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants…”

    Sure if that “pathway to citizenship” involves the illegal migrants returning to their home country, applying to come to the US legally, and going through the citizenship process like legal immigrants.

  16. I believe most of the undocumented immigrants would be thrilled to get a permanent resident green card. Unfortunately, liberals in Congress have held up a real, workable solution to the illegal immigration problem by insisting on a path to citizenship or nothing, while a palatable solution to legal residency would be a huge benefit to the immigrants and would get us much closer to a long lasting solution. It’s time to drop the ideology and come up with a workable residency solution now. Solve residency first, then tackle citizenship once residency is working. You might find that a whole lot of the undocumented residents don’t care all that much about citizenship so long as they don’t have to worry about te Border Patrol hunting them down all day.

    1. I agree. The graphs said that most immigrants are looking for economic opportunities. That sounds fine. I think many would support a larger pool of people who can legally work and pay taxes in the US. However, this would exclude governmental support for services for the worker and their families.

    2. So, what do you say to those who have waited for permission to legally enter the country, by the laws that exist?
      “Tough shit. You’re an idiot for doing things the right way, to make this country your new home. We only want those, who thumb their nose at our laws, as the first act upon entering”?
      There is a matter of profound unfairness to the legal immigrant to reward the illegal ones with residency.

  17. There already *is* a path to citizenship, taken by about 1M legal immigrants every single year for decades.

    What is being proposed here is a shortcut handed down to people who are at *least* cutters-in-line and cheaters and outright criminals warranting multiple felony charges (fraud, human trafficking…).

    1. Word omitted…

      “…and possibly outright criminals…”

  18. Ask the 55% this question…

    A JFK airport, a flight from El Salvador has just landed, and 400+ people are waiting in line at customs. Without warning, 5 men break from the lines, push their way through the gates, and try to evade the Customs agents as they break for the open terminal beyond.

    What do we expect should happen to those men?

    What if they’re safely apprehended, and they each say “I seek asylum. I want refugee status.” What about “I just came to America looking for a job to feed my family.”

    1. Going further; none have IDs nor can be identified by their government and the friends and family they identify as having lived in the country are unable to be reached and/or have been living under assumed names/identities.

      And, probably most importantly, this happens repeatedly on every (other, every third…) flight from El Salvador (Mexico, Guatemala, Venezuela…).

  19. I call foul. Such a tiny group of respondents can not possibly be truly representative of the entireUnited States population. WHO decided whom to poll? And on what basis? ANd what exactly were the questions asked?

    Pollsters are infamous for manipulating the results of their work by selectively choosing from amongst the many options. Anyone can design a survey and take it to prove just about anything.

    I must be part of a very wierd group.. of the hundreds of peopel I know, only a small handful favour the present open borders let em all come on in and we’ll feed them and house them and support them indefiniteily. An dTHAT is what is really happening. Not to mention NO MEDICAL SCREENING whatever. That has from very early times been the primary reason for border checks and protocols. From ealrierst times of sea travel vessels calling in some foreign port had to fly the Q flag, requrst pratique, were often quarantined aboard their vessel for a set period of time to assure no infections duseases could enter the host country.

    I want to know the demographics and other specifics of that 2600 who are purported to speak for the rest of us.

    1. It’s a bullshit Koch sponsored poll.

  20. Reason: We oppose socialism.
    Also Reason: We’re not at all suspicious of why leftists overwhelmingly favor citizenship for all.

    1. Reason: Government should be smaller and less intrusive.
      Also Reason: The government’s ability to grant citizenship and promote the general welfare shouldn’t be restrained by arbitrary geography.

  21. “55 percent of Americans say they favor providing a “pathway to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants and 56 percent say that simplifying the process for legal immigration is the best way to reduce illegal immigration.”

    The usual fraud of Reason.

    *All* foreigners *already* have a pathway to citizenship. The line starts *outside* the country. Go get in line.

    Rewarding foreigners who violate our laws by letting them cut in line in front of those who obeyed our laws is manifestly perverse socially, legally, and morally.

    And what is Reason’s preferred solution to illegal immigration? “Let’s reduce illegal immigration by letting the world invade the US more easily.”

    Naturally, the the Ruling Reptiles who Reason carries water for love driving down wage rates and working conditions, and driving up housing costs.

    But Reason has yet to explain how you make a *more* libertarian society out of people from *less* libertarian cultures.

    Import Not Americans, Become Not America.

    In a just world, they wouldn’t be able to escape the cesspool their preferred policies have made of CA. Not surprising that they opened offices in DC. They’re just pretend friends of freedom. Controlled opposition for The Establishment.

    1. A pet peeve of mine. People are not “imports”. They are individuals making choices of their own free will. Pineapples are imports.

      “Import Not Americans, Become Not America.”

      Really? Where did your folks come from? Russia, Romania, and Germany in my family. I am married to an immigrant actually.

  22. “Most Americans Favor a ‘Pathway to Citizenship’ for Undocumented Immigrants” is BS, that is not what the survey says… Coveniently left is the qualifier “meet certain circumstances” sadly left undefined.

  23. I question the methodology behind the survey used to come up with the data and no surprise Reason cites the Cato Institute. The best reason not to have less, and not more, immigration is what happened in Virginia.

    Virginia was deep Red and then flipped Blue after immigration officials under Obama guided immigrants to the state and now the legislature is dominated by Democrats. That includes their assaults on things like gun rights. The New York Times even wrote an article bragging about how Virginia flipped 3 years ago (link below).

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/09/us/virginia-elections-democrats-republicans.html

    The left is weaponizing immigration and it doesn’t help anything when so-called libertarian outlets, like Reason and Cato, like to play footsie with the leftist intelligensia hoping to be part of the team.

    You cannot maintain a free society by bringing in elements hostile to it and that might include the current crop of illegals Biden is encouraging to come to the U.S..

    1. If republicans want more votes they can attract more voters. What you are talking about is manipulating policy and law to keep your favorite party in permanent power. That is not freedom. That happens in Russia too.

      I voted for that nice professor lady so I lose either way.

    2. Look people who are devout liberals or conservatives don’t change and are pretty much evenly matched. The swing voters are what counts. Trump won because people couldn’t stand Hillary. Biden won because after 4 years of his shenanigans they couldn’t stand Trump. Trumps behavior after the election brought in more democrats. It is not that much about ideology for most people.

  24. Reason open borders lies.

    1. Yep. Why the push for citizenship? Don’t open borders make that unnecessary?

      Or is ‘open borders’ simply a trope meant to mask the planned importation of a different sort of citizenry?

  25. 77% of those polled want low levels or no legal immigration at all. 68% low, 9% none.

    I wonder why this wasn’t mentioned in the above article?

  26. The solution to illegal immigration is legal immigration. If you don’t want to give people citizenship just issue renewable work and residency permits. Start with those already here. You can control numbers if that is a problem.

  27. 55% seems low to me. I peg the number of people in the USA who still want a distinct American nation at 20% or less

  28. The question is framed deceptively. Almost all illegal immigrants already have multiple routes to citizenship, with the primary exception being felons that we don’t want anyway. While these routes tend to be overly punitive, the solution is certainly not to give illegal immigrants a BETTER path to citizenship than legal immigrants. But that’s inevitably what liberals call for.

    The difficult parts of legally immigrating are meeting the criteria and then waiting your turn, which even in the best cases takes almost a year. Skipping over that and straight to residency and work permits should not be a reward for fence jumping, or be granted without payment equal to the benefits. I am not exaggerating at all to say that the market would easily bear a $50,000 price tag for that privilege, probably much more.

  29. This means more people will be entering through regular migration than through irregular migration. Regular migration avoids the problem of bolstering organized crime. Regular migration creates greater transparency. It allows for proper security assessments. It’s a win-win situation.

  30. Here’s one compromise (though I understand documenting would be difficult) – I’d go with a semi-auto citizenship for anyone who has lived in the US longer than outside the US. So if you come to the US when you are 20, you have to live here til you are 40. If you were 5, then 10.

    This would not exclude alternate (and potentially quicker) routes to citizenship as well.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.