April 12th, 2010
12:02 PM ET
12 years ago

Should path for citizenship be made easier for illegal immigrants?


 (PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/File)

Washington (CNN) - Two-thirds of Americans don't want to make it easier for illegal immigrants to become citizens, even though a slight majority is sympathetic towards their plight, according to a new poll.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Sunday indicates that 66 percent of Americans say the U.S. should not make it easier for illegal immigrants to become citizens, with 33 percent disagreeing.

Forty-two percent of Democrats questioned say the path to citizenship for illegal immigrants should be made easier. That number drops to 33 percent for independents and 16 percent for Republican respondents.

"Virtually all major subgroups oppose making it easier for illegal immigrants to become citizens, at least in the abstract," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Specific legislation that puts limits on the ability to gain citizenship has sometimes met with favor in the past if it restricts the number who can apply and penalizes them for staying in the country illegally. But the overall principle remains unpopular."

According to the poll, 52 percent are sympathetic to illegal immigrants and their families, down five points from 2006, with 47 percent unsympathetic, up eight points from four years ago.
"There are minor demographic differences on the sympathy question," says Holland. "For example, women appear slightly more sympathetic than men. But the biggest difference is the partisan breakdown. Two-thirds of Democrats say they sympathize with illegal immigrants, compared to roughly half of Independents and only one in four Republicans."

On Saturday, thousands of people attended rallies in several cities across the country to urge Congress to act quickly on immigration reform. Tens of thousands of people turned out last month for an immigration rally held at the National Mall in Washington. In a video message to that crowd, President Obama vowed he would do "everything in my power" to get a bipartisan deal to overhaul U.S. immigration laws.

Then-President George W. Bush supported a bipartisan effort to overhaul U.S. immigration laws four years ago, proposing to set up a path to legal status for the estimated 11 million people currently in the United States without authorization.

But those measures were criticized as establishing "amnesty" for illegal immigrants, and legislation Bush supported died with a Senate filibuster – one led by members of his own party but joined by more than a dozen Democrats.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted March 19-21, with 1,030 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn

Filed under: CNN poll • Immigration • Popular Posts
soundoff (122 Responses)
  1. cnn = 100% democrat support all the time

    no!!! i went through the immigration process legally and so should anyone who comes to this country, not matter the reason or the job.

    i though the us was a nation of laws, not a nation of emotions . . . laws allow for equal treatment, emotions do not.

    April 12, 2010 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  2. Bill NY

    Why not? We are all basically living here illegally. The native americans were here first and then murdered and had their land stolen from them.

    April 12, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  3. Steph

    I don't know if the word "easier" is the right one to use. I would like to see a more straight forward, clearly communicated way, but it wouldn't be easy. The requirements should include paying a fairly large fine and any back taxes owed, proving employability, possibly an English language test, proving a clear criminal hisory in the country of origin and in the USA, and passing the citizenship exam (which many US natives would fail). All of this needs to be coupled with tighter boarder security.

    Doing nothing about the current problem we have with the large number of illegal immigrants in this country isn't an option.

    April 12, 2010 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  4. Steve A. , New Braunfels , Texas

    NO! it should be made harder.

    April 12, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  5. j williamson

    Sorry, but the vast majority of illegal immigrants in the US would never have qualified under normal circumstances – that is, skilled worker class, family class, etc. The idea of "amnesty" for these individuals makes mock of those who did it the right way – applied and waited their turn, hoping for the best. When Ronald Reagan gave amnesty to many millions of illegals in the 1980's, he apparently thought the "problem" was forever solved. Instead it simply encoraged many millions more to come and wait for the next amnesty – while loudly demanding their "rights" in the meantime. I think Obama will find the health care process a walk in the park compared to this. Good luck!

    April 12, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  6. Dano

    It's hard to find Americans who will work long hours under harsh conditions for low pay and cannot go to the authorities when their rights are violated (as illegals have none). Many businesses utilize the cheap labor force illegal immigrants provide, so until laws are enacted AND enforced making the penalty for employing illegals high enough to discourage this practice nothing will change. When there are no jobs for them here they'll stop coming. In the meantime Americans will condemn illegal immigrants as they enjoy lower prices on many products & services allowed by the fruits of their labor.

    April 12, 2010 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  7. Chris~Albany, NY

    This democratic male is competetly unsympathetic. My family came here as legal immigrants. There's no reason to change the rules. Illegal immigrant~~~~~~~~>send em back!

    April 12, 2010 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  8. Rickster

    Some facts...and amnesty would not stop these costs. It would only add it to our debt:

    1. $11 Billion to $22 billion is spent on welfare to ILLEGAL ALIENS each year by state governments!!!
    2. $2.2 Billion dollars a year is spent on food assistance programs such as food stamps, WIC, and free school lunches for illegal aliens.
    3. $2.5 Billion dollars a year is spent on Medicaid for illegal aliens.
    4. $12 Billion dollars a year is spent on primary and secondary school education for children here illegally and they cannot speak a word of English!
    5. $17 Billion dollars a year is spent for education for the American-born children of illegal aliens, known as anchor babies.
    6. $3 Million Dollars a DAY is spent to incarcerate illegal aliens.
    7. 30% percent of all Federal Prison inmates are illegal aliens.
    8. $90 Billion Dollars a year is spent on illegal aliens for Welfare & social services by the American taxpayers.
    9. $200 Billion dollars a year in suppressed American wages are caused by the illegal aliens0
    11. 'The Dark Side of Illegal Immigration: Nearly One million sex crimes Committed by Illegal Immigrants In The United States .'

    The total cost is a whopping $ 338.3 BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR.

    Here's a thought: Close the border and deport the illegals.....that's the best thing we could do for our economy.

    April 12, 2010 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  9. Simon/Orlando

    Absolutely not. The economy sucks. There's not enough jobs for Americans as it is. All we need is more unemployed immigrants to create a bigger welfare tab. Keep them out!

    April 12, 2010 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  10. Dean

    Should it be made easier? NO they should go to the back of the line.

    April 12, 2010 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  11. James C

    The real issue is the average person has no idea what the pathway to citizenship looks like. While on the issue regarding illegal immigrants I am somewhat on the fence, as a legal immigrant who became a US citizen I can say the process is complicated, slow, and burdensome. Wholesale reform not just for illegals would ring true for me. Maybe if we analyze the admittance policy we can stem the illegal entry.

    April 12, 2010 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  12. Robert

    They broke our laws. The need to follow a legal path and if they break our laws they should be arrested and deported

    April 12, 2010 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  13. Obama the Liar

    deportation now....illegals are destroying our schools, prisons and our economy...get back in line and get work permits without fake documents

    April 12, 2010 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  14. james

    maybe we should make it harder , like adding a requirement to speak English

    April 12, 2010 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  15. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    My parents came to this country in 1953 after properly applying for and waiting several months for approval.

    They waited 7 more years after arriving in this country to become citizens, reporting every year, during the waiting period for citienship, to the Federal Building in Chicago, as required.

    They took the citizenship exam, after studying for it. They passed the exam and were sworn in with dozens of other hopefuls.

    Why isn't that system good enough for those who broke the law to get here?

    For the record, I'm a liberal but there comes a time where pragmaticism takes over, and it should start with this issue.

    April 12, 2010 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  16. jheron

    How about making it easier for legal immigrants first. It currently takes 7 to 9 years for someone to get a greencard...unless you are someone important to the fabric of America...like a fashion model.

    April 12, 2010 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  17. Robert

    Really hard to explain in this comment but all I want to say is yes.
    Most of them have been here for more than 20 years without leaving the country to even visit their love ones. I believe there is no worse punishment that not able to see your family. If they have no criminal record, pay taxes they should be able to be part of this great country.
    We do need their help anyways. Immigration reform is necessary and create a temorary workers program. Most of them just come to work on the field and want to go back to their country of origin. Not all illegals are Mexican by the way

    April 12, 2010 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  18. Andrew

    I think yes, it should be easier a path for some ilegal immigrants who has been here for more than 10 years and pay already taxes. yes!
    thank you very much

    April 12, 2010 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  19. Gerri Fagan

    Stay with the rule of the Constitution. The Constitution tells us how to become citizens; it has worked for these hundreds of years so why change it now?

    April 12, 2010 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  20. a progressive

    We need to work with Central/South-American countries in effort that they, Central and South-America, can better provide basic social services and education to their people. It is not the responsibility of the United States, alone, to solve employment problems and to improve the standard of living for the entire Western Hemisphere.

    Isn't that a major reason why we passed NAFTA and CAFTA? Make your governments transparent. Organize, Demonstrate, and Protest your government's policies when they don't favor developement and Social Justice.

    To the U.S.: Seriously, legalize Marijuana. This will generate enormous amounts of revenue for countires like Mexico, and that model could be applied elsewhere. Stop this aspect of the Drug War. To many people die, who shouldn't, and too much money is being wasted.

    April 12, 2010 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  21. Paul

    You have said if it should be made easier. However, none of our ancestors came with a visa or a birth certificate to America, unless you are a native descendant, otherwise you can not label people who share our dreams for and who work for a better life. Moreover, why don't you mention that most people agree with the need for a comprehensive immigration reform. What would Jesus do in this situation? think about it.

    April 12, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  22. Fou Hin Chin

    Do not make too easier for them, illegal is illegal

    April 12, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  23. Sue

    ANY politician who gets on the "let's give illegals amnesty" bandwagon will GUARANTEE that they are sent to the unemployment lines in November.

    The majority in the country want nothing less than our laws enforced--with illegals FORCED to leave the country.

    NO rewards/accommodations-–or ANY form of amnesty for illegals.

    Unless the illegals have to go back home, stand in line and apply for legal entry--it IS amnesty, no matter what they say/do or try to call it.

    April 12, 2010 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  24. Tired Ant

    Yes, please make the path easier... and hopefully before the November elections. I mean, *SOMEONE* has to vote for the Democrats. Barry's reelection depends upon getting new voters on the rolls, because anyone who still has a job will be voting against the socialists.

    I would say you just rehire the census workers to hand the illegals Democrat voter registration cards as soon as they illegally enter the counry, but then it occurred to me, "Why bother?"

    If Democrats gleefully canvas cemetaries and register hobos under the bridge in trade for booze and smokes, why even BOTHER with voter registration cards? Just let them cast their Democrat ballot as soon as they cross over, without the bother of registration.

    Surely, Madison rolls in his grave.
    We truly do not deserve the gift that was given to us.

    April 12, 2010 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  25. BLM

    That's all we need, 11 million more people eligible for unemployment benefits.

    April 12, 2010 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
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