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. William Lyon

    What part of "illegal" do you people not understand. They are here illegally. They should not have the right nor opportunity to become citizens of the United States. Anyone who emigrates legally, and does what is required to become a citizen, should have that opportunity no matter what country they are from originally or what nationality they are.

    April 12, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  2. Mikey

    Since a fence is silly and really won't work, we need to dry up employment opportunities, which will mean very stiff penalties for hiring illegals – even in construction, gardening, restaraunts, and domestic service. That being accomplished, we should create a path for citizenship for those who are now here – with ample screening and other requirements.

    But everyone should understand that illegals in the labor force pushe the cost of labor down throughout the economy. The positive impact of eliminating illegals will be higher wages, especially at the lower end of the wage scale. The negative will be higher prices for just about everything. Be careful what you wish for. I can already hear the whining now.

    April 12, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  3. Rush is to far left

    NO! Which part of the word "illegal" is not understood? Send them and their anchor babies back across the border and let them apply for legal entrance into the United States like all other countries!

    April 12, 2010 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  4. Tom, Bradenton,FL

    What do our leaders and CNN when using the word Illegal? Illegal means you broke a law and don't get rewarded for offenses. USA-RIP.

    April 12, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  5. wait a minute

    Most illegal immigrants came for a better living environment, a job and hope. We should give them what they came for with a special class of permanent residency, but never citizenship. We shouldn't reward law-breaking behavior again and again.

    April 12, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  6. Pa Santigie

    Yes, Ronald Reagan had the right idea. If you have been here after a certain length of time and avoided breaking the law and have contributed positively to the society, you should have a chance at becoming a part of that society. It is mean spirited and inhumane to deny others that same opportunity accorded our fore fathers by the Native Americans, a place to stay and grow a more inclusive society. So all of you Xenophobes just calm down and remember how the settlers came here......no visa, no citizenship test and definitely no angry mobs chasing them down at the borders.....
    This country was built with the blood and on the backs of immigrants both legal and illegal, now that it is a Citadel, we want to deny others entry. It is not the American way.....if you don't believe go look at the statue of the Lady carrying the Torch in New York....and learn the inscriptions at the base so we may cover our collective shame.

    April 12, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  7. Lloyd Ickes

    No we should not reward illegals for breaking our laws.

    April 12, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  8. Barry M

    Why not make it easy for those who are here to become citizens? My tax money is down the toilet as I see it. If the borders were truly secured, then illegal immigrants would not have made it here. So my argument is, if they are already here, why not spend the effort to ensure that they become legal residents rather than spending more getting them out of the country for them only to return. If however, these people committed crimes regardless of the nature, then they should be sent home. As stated, there are over 11 million illegal in this country. What has our border personnel been doing all along? Make these people legal so that they can contribute and pay their fare share of taxes. Require that each pay $5000 to the Feds and $2000, to the state of which they reside and give them to privilege of citizenship.

    April 12, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  9. Bob

    Let's hope this is not another situation where the pols of both parties don't listen to the people they represent. Amnasty was granted once and they all knew about hat and have tried to play the system– Sorry let's get back to enforcing the LAW!

    April 12, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  10. John D.

    Here we go again. Two Thirds of the people do not believe the path should be made easier but Democrats and a few imbicilic Republicans are going to try to ram this one down our throats. What a nightmare this administration is turning out to be. Led by an illegal himself.

    They are here illegaly, send them all packing. No excuses. They are a big part of the financial crisis we are in today. It has cost us billions for them to be here never mind the fraud in entitlements the get worming their way through the system.

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

    The basic argument for immigration reform has always been that the illegals are doing jobs that American will not do. That is indisputable. However, the reason that they perform these jobs is due to their status, not their desire to do hard work for low wages.

    Once they are granted the right to work legally in this country, however, that will change. They will no longer be satisfied. They will begin seeking employment in jobs currently held by US citizens, and will be will to do so for less. It's human nature.

    Whether through amnesty or a pathway to citizenship, the results would be devastating. Unions, especially, should be strongly opposed to any measure than full enforcement of the existing laws.

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

    It would be a travesty of justice to allow illegal immigrants to be granted citizenship. I know of many people in Latin America who have applied to enter this country and are waiting their turn to enter within the laws of our country. They respect our laws and have too much pride and self respect to enter illegaly.

    If this country allows illegal law breaking immigrants to stay in this country and reward them with citizenship for breaking our immigration laws it would make the US the laughing stock around the world and it would encourage other people to enter the country without any concern of our laws.

    For God sakes why do we even try to protect our borders and country if we don't enforce the laws.

    April 12, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  13. Steve851

    Sorry, but this Tea Partier is all for easing immigration and citizenship requirements. I know there are problems in the border states. But elsewhere I see hard working good people. Deporting people who have grown up here is despicable

    April 12, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  14. Greg

    Any conservative that considers themselves a "Reagan Republican" should go back and look where Ronald Reagan stood on this issue. It's ridiculous how difficult it is for hard-working immigrants to try and enter this country legally.

    April 12, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  15. AJ

    Simply put, NO!!

    April 12, 2010 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  16. Ken in Pisgah Forest

    There is a price to pay for pay no matter what happens. By having them here illegally, wages of farm workers are depressed. If they leave, the cost of groceries will go up substantially. If they are made legal, then they will be less likely to be taken advantage of, and prices of groceries will go up.

    Republican constituents don't want them here, but people who donate the big bucks to Republican politicians want them to stay because they provide them with cheap labor.

    Democrats see placating to them as a vote getter from Hispanics and others here legally who have become citizens and earned the right to vote. They don't have to win, but they need to show they tried.

    I'm sure the tea partiers will be very vocal on this issue and will scare away some of the support W had on this issue, including McCain and Graham.

    April 12, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  17. Joe

    Illegal immigrants do not deserve special treatment. Giving them a shorter path to citizenship is a slap in the face to all the immigrants that came here legally. The illegal immigrants should not be rewarded for doing something illegal

    April 12, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  18. Boston Irish

    I think the key word here that everyone is overlooking is the word "ILLEGAL". Why should someone who KNOWINGLY broke the law be rewarded? Why are they allowed to stay here in this country while they are continuing to break the law? Isn't the law supposed to be upheld? Doesn't look like illegals are held to the same standards of others breaking laws.

    April 12, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  19. Native American

    There should be NO PATH TO CITIZENSHIP for illegal immigrants. Why are they special?? There is a process. Why should they be rewarded with citizenship after not going through that process and breaking our laws. Obviously they don't think our laws are worth anything, and if so, what is going to happen if they do become a citizen? Will they only follow the laws they want to?

    GO AFTER THE EMPLOYERS WHO HIRE ILLEGALS AND FINE THEM HEFTY FINES. Take away our benefits to the Illegals and they will go home when they have no social services and no schools to send their children too.

    ABSOLUTLY NO AMNESTY! I think I speak for MOST AMERICANS who have been hurt by the illegals being here.

    April 12, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  20. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    If you're here illegally, you should be deported and fined. People wonder where the jobs are. Just go to any construction site and I'm sure you'll find a few undocumented workers here ilegally.

    April 12, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  21. walleye

    I have no problem with anyone coming to the US and wanting to gain citizenship.

    My family as well as millions of others came to this country in the 1920's. They adopted the customs and language of their new land, went on and took the test and finally the oath of citizenship. There is no reason to change a policy that has worked well for all these years.

    April 12, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  22. Glennis

    There will be an all out revolt in this country if Congress and the administration allow millions of illegals to bypass the normal steps of obtaining citizenship. The government needs to start listening to the beleagured, tapped out citizens of this country before they add more. We're reaching the tipping point of not being willing to tolerate a government that acts only in its own best interests.

    April 12, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  23. Mike Syracuse, NY

    Send them home and let them apply just like the million who are naturalized every year in the US. There should be no reward for breaking the law.

    April 12, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  24. mike

    how come I never see americans cutting the lawn or doing any manuel
    labor for the republican wealth just drive around your neighbor hood
    and you see all the time what it all comes down too is that as long as
    there is a demand for there cheap service there going to cross the
    border the all saying goes money talks and bull craps walks remember
    that when you are given a price for some work on your house

    April 12, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  25. Wisconsonite - Repeal & Replace the Republican Party!

    I really look at this issue more from an economic view point than "sympathetic". Many, if not most, illegal immigrants are already employed in this country. Illegally employed, granted, but employed none-the-less. They are not, however, paying taxes. Let them stay, let them keep the jobs they already have, let them become citizens and then make them pay taxes just like the rest of us!

    April 12, 2010 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
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