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. kfc, NJ

    What part of the word "illegal" do they not understand. If you want to enter the US, do so the legal way.

    April 12, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  2. Dan Holiday

    The liberal/democrat talking points on this board are brought to you by democrat operatives who are paid to post on these and other forums throughout the internet. The rantings are nothing but propaganda and talking points O.K.ed by the Democrat National Committee. They do this to try and sway the minds of actual Americans whom look at these posts. It is part of the democrat election machine. Look at other boards to verify what I am saying. You will see the same people posting over and over. The closer we get to the election cycle; the more you will see this. Please ignore these posts and educate yourselves regarding the issues at hand. Do not think for a moment that these people represent the majority of Americans. Once again…these people are paid good money to leave messages on various message boards throughout the internet on behalf of the DNC. Thank you for reading this.

    April 12, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  3. Enough is Enough

    According to the Washington post 1 out of every 15 in primary and secondary are schools are illegals. My kids go to a DC charter school, funding was cut for all charters in DC. Services are cut to my kids funded with my taxes so we can educate illegals. Obama wants to make the illegals legal because they vote democratic. So his idea of change is screw the tax payers so he can get more votes in 2012. Guess what everyone when Obama makes them legal the vast majority of them will join the 48% of U.S. workers who pay no income tax under Obamanomics. How much will in cost to provide health insurance to 12 million more people? The citizens of this county do not want any more poor people who don’t speak English. I don't blame people from the south of our border for wanting to come here for a better life but don't blame me for not wanting to pay for it.

    April 12, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  4. LacrosseMom(the real one)

    There needs to be a JUST way of dealing with the undocumented immigrants we have today. The fact is that they are here, and we must deal with this situation.

    Back when REAGAN was president, he supported the "Immigration reform & Control Act"...... obviously, it did not help.

    Since most Conservatives like to remind us, that we are a Christian Nation, then let's see the Republicans cooperate with the Democrats on solutions to the current immigration problem.

    Rounding up people, dehumanizing them by calling them "illegals", being hateful toward people with a Latino surname is not the answer.

    Justice and decency must prevail.

    April 12, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  5. Hammerer

    Not no but hell no! They entered this country illegally and thumbed their nose at the law.
    American citizens should not subsidizebig businesses with cheap labor. To long have the illegals had a free ride with food, housing, education and healthcare.
    American citizen's children have been denied top quality education because schools have the problem of non english speaking students slowing the learning process down because they can not understand and the moneys and time spent with this problem causes education to lag behind. Also American students are denied loans for college due to the fact that illegals receive large amounts of aid.
    The excuse that the child should suffer because the parent brought the children is not valid. The parent should understand that there are consequences for their actions and the results are not always good.
    The free ride must come to a stop!

    April 12, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  6. Bruce

    "66 percent of Americans say the U.S. should not make it easier for illegal immigrants to become citizens, with 33 percent disagreeing."

    What they aren't telling you is that the other 33% are illegal aliens.

    April 12, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  7. Bob in Pa.

    I think a free ride back to the border is in order and provide them with instructions on how to do it right. Amnesty is not the answer.

    April 12, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  8. Angela Ambler

    I used to think it would be better if it was harder for illegal aliens to gain citizenship in this country but now I have changed my mind because it is
    becoming so much harder to prove you are a citizen in this country. If giving these immigrants citizenship will make it easier for me to get a driver license or a passport then by all means make it easier. I am tired of looking for documentation that proves I was born in this country or that my children were born in this country. Maybe we should all become illegal aliens then the government would work at making it easy for us to become citizens without all the crap. Being a citizen in this country is a joke because no one looks out for you. We are one of the only country's that actually makes citizens feel like illegals and illegals look like citizens

    April 12, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  9. Sgt. USMC

    The real question is; should businesses (the real illegals) be allowed to exploit people who are trying to make a better life for themselves? Should they be allowed to continue to use other human beings for capital gain? If you want to stop illegal immigration, place harsh penalties on companies who exploit humans who are just trying to survive. Deport those business owners!

    April 12, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  10. Robin in Tampa, FL

    The path to citizenship for immigrants who enter this country is pretty difficult, WHY should it be easier for people who are here illegally. That is NOT fair at all.

    April 12, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  11. Ray E. (Georgia)

    Easier than what? The illegal immigrant is between a rock and a hard place. If all the illegals are given Amnasty then they can get on Social Security, un employment benifits, etc, etc, etc. Those that are now working for very low wages will be now be able to get better wages. What employer will keep them on the payroll. Not many. Now we have a whole new class of welfare recipiants. Tax payers are footing the bill for illegals now. They need to go home and apply there if they want to become citizens. Any way you look at it, going back to the home country is the only way the citizens will accept.

    April 12, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |

    HEC NO.

    They broke the law, but his weak Liberal GOVT never wants to enforce the laws.

    I'm not paying any more taxes. I'll pick the Charities I want to support, not some DUMocRATS.

    April 12, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  13. Unbelieveable

    The question remains:
    "Just what part of illegal don't they understand"?

    It is beyond belief that any aid would be given to an individual who does something deemed to be illegal.

    Why not just release all the individuals currently in prison for performing some illegal act ? What's the difference?

    There should be no reward for breaking the law.
    Illegal immigrants should be given no aid of any kind.
    Rewarding illegal acts will only encourage more of the same.

    One can hardly believe illegal immigrants actually marching in the streets of Washington DC demanding their "rights"

    April 12, 2010 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  14. Johio

    I suppose by default that any kind of immigration "reform" will make a path to citizenship easier, otherwise there would be no need for reform. I do know that any reform has to make sense – easier or not. It is completely unrealistic to expect that an illegal alien who has family and a job in this country will return to their native country to apply for re-entry – with no guarantee that they will get back in, or how long it might take. In most cases, those people have children who are American citizens. Are they supposed to take those children back to Mexico (or wherever) while they wait for a disposition of their case? How are they supposed to support them while they wait in a country where their children may not even speak the language, much less understand the culture? Is that a risk that any Americans would take with their own families? I guess not.

    April 12, 2010 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  15. Peter

    Illegal immigrants aside, why don't US overhaul the "Legal Immigration" process to attract more educated and younger people to legally come to USA? By doing so, we can increase the size of our younger workforce with highly needed professionals such as doctors, nurses, programmers and businessmen with new ideas. All these can generate more tax income to help pay for social security as well as stimulate the stagnant economy.

    April 12, 2010 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  16. mike

    Yes we should make leagalizing immigrants a top priority.
    There must be some path to citizenship for those here now. America has always depended upon a stream of immigrants for workers.

    One of the biggest budget busters for the US is Social Security, chiefly because the twenty year "baby boom" generation is now becoming eligable leaving few workers to keep the funds coming in. Leagalizing immigrants is siad to have the potential to cover 25% of the shortfall. Note that most immigrants are young with a 30 year work life ahead – by the time they are 65 or 70 and retiring the bubble will have passed.
    Of course raing the retirement age, limiting benifits for those who have more than $1million in retirement income, and taxing all incomes for SS without limit, can make up the rest.

    I'm sure all you Teabaggers will stick your heads in the sand and just say no...luckily you represent only about 6% of America...

    April 12, 2010 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  17. no illegal aliens

    NO. Would you welcome and allow a thief/robber who enters your house illegally to remain and stay in your house and eat your foods?
    Those senators who are in favor of letting illegal aliens are stupid and crazy; have them support those illegal aliens with their own money; not tax payer money. Send all of them home, this include those traitors who supports illegal aliens.

    April 12, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  18. Republicans Morons of the World

    Path to citizenship for illegal aliens should be blocked, they are criminals under the law, any other option is in essence overturning the law and making it unenfoceable and leads to more illegal aliens breaking it. Breaking of the law should entail being deported from the country and any corporation or person hiring an illegal alien should be held accountable under the law and also be responsible for all costs incurred to deport said individuals as well as court costs associated with trying the business or corporation found guilty of hiring an illegal alien.

    April 12, 2010 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  19. Ana

    why definitely must reform the immigration laws in this country. The reason why we have so many undocumented immigrants in the US is the fact that they often have no other choice but to stay without authorization because they can not adjust their status or keep their legal status because of the visa requirements. Many of those people have been living the the US for years and often decades, and I just can not see how we will be able to deport them now. It is clearly not those people fault that they have no legal status. They came often because there was a demand for those workers when economy was booming. If we don't reform the law we will have 20 millions of undocumented workers in the next few years, and what are we going to do then? The Schumer-Graham is very good. I like their idea about biometric ID cards and E-verify. If we really want to slow down the illegal migration, this is the first step to do that, although there always will be some greedy employers in this country that would want to take advantage of the cheep labor. People that are already here often have wives/husbands that are US citizens or permanent residents and there should be a way for those people to adjust their status. I think that it is immoral and wrong to separate those families. Also, many of the undocumented workers pay taxes and SS, so they contribute to our economy. If we want to deport them we should give them their money back. Anyway, they are already a part of our society. We are a country of immigrants and built by immigrants and we should legalize those people like we did many times before. This is the right thing to do. We must reform our laws for the good of the American people, so the greedy employers won't be able to hire any more illegal workers, the wages will not keep going down and then, when there would not be any jobs for undocumented workers they will stop coming. Also, the borders should be strengthen and we should make sure that only children of American citizens and permanent residents will get citizenship. Furthermore, we should not allow immigrants to bring their far families with them. Only husbands/wives and children. That's it. They can always visit their families in their countries. We are spending billions of dollars to deport those people, but I don't thing that this is money well spent. If we won't reform the immigration law the people will back when economy will improved. This money could be spend on our aging roads or to improve the educational system in this country.

    April 12, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  20. Myles Buell

    One thing I've alwasy had trouble understanding is if illegal immigrants come to America for better jobs and put forth great effort why can't they do that in there own country. I know they dont have as good of start as most Americans but if they wanted they could work for a better economy. As far as i see it it is the goverment of the country they come from fault. America should not sympathize for these illegals. If any thing they should feel anger for them taking our jobs and not paying our taxes. Don't make it easier for them.

    April 12, 2010 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  21. rowdy

    head 'em up
    move 'em out
    move 'em on
    head 'em out

    April 12, 2010 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  22. MikeFromWIS

    I would not be sympathetic to the criminal aliens living here. They have broken our immigration laws and it's time to pay for that.

    Step 1) Militarize our borders.
    Step 2) Round up all criminal aliens.
    Step 3) Seize all of their assets as a fine for criminal trespass. California would benefit greatly.
    Step 4) Eject them from our country.
    Step 5) Stop all work visas until we are at 5% unemployment again.
    Step 6) Fine all companies that employed the criminal aliens (It's the law and again California would benefit greatly).
    Step 7) Reap the benefits of having a significantly lower crime rate on both sides of the fence and decreased unemployment in the US.

    We should also ge t rid of their illegitimate "American" children they had while here criminally. That way they don't have the urge to come back to see them.

    April 12, 2010 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  23. jp,michigan

    I believe certain standards need to be met first before allowing an illegal to become citizen. #1. any criminal activity in ones background. #2. how long a person has been here, how they support the American way. #3. marriage and children citizens of the US of A. #4 It should be probational, carry a green cards for certain number of years without incident, then apply for citizenship.

    April 12, 2010 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  24. Rick McDaniel

    No free rides for illegals!

    In fact, I want the US government to authorize all law enforcement agencies, to identify, and detain illegals for pick up by the Feds, to be deported.

    I want the Border Patrol to use armed drones, to attack anyone crossing the border illegally.

    I want the law to be enforced!

    April 12, 2010 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  25. Kayode Ogunsola

    As time passes by, more and more Americans will understand the hypocrisy of wanting happiness for all American residents, but denying full equality for minority groups. It took time for the majority of people to support civil rights for African-Americans and women. But we still even haven't fully embraced the protection of homosexual rights. People just can't or refuse to understand how tragic it is that we discriminate against large groups of people unless it has effect on themselves or someone they know. Less strict immigration can only help America in the long term and aren't we all taught as kids that we should be willing to be more generous to all people? It will get better...eventually.

    April 12, 2010 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
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