The nationwide backlash against President Trump’s immigration policies now seems undeniable.
Recent polls show three clear conclusions: strong public opposition to the separation of families that occurred at the border; unprecedented objections to a reduction in the number of immigrants allowed into the U.S. annually; and a surprising 75 percent of people who say immigration is generally good for the nation.
The broad support for immigration, reported in the latest Gallup poll, demonstrates a new high in a trend that began slowly more than a decade ago. Gallup also found that support for legal immigration stands at 84 percent.
Trump’s plans to reign in legal immigration has put support for annual immigration restrictions at its lowest level in more than half a century. Just 29 percent of Americans believe it should be decreased, the smallest proportion recorded by Gallup since at least 1965.
As for the highly contentious issue of U.S. border officers detaining immigrant children and their parents separately, three recent polls show survey respondents were roughly twice as likely to oppose the separations than support them. Though the hardline policy was halted by Trump, the slow reunification process affecting more than 2,000 Hispanic children continues to rile the public.
The strongest objections to the policy were voiced in a Quinnipiac poll in which 66 percent of voters, including 91 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents, said they opposed the policy. Republicans supported it by a 55-35 percent margin.
Changing views on immigration became increasingly noticeable during the last years of the Obama administration, when the plight of the “Dreamers” — young adults brought to the U.S. illegally as children — became a national issue. Last September, a Fox News poll found that 83 percent favored granting Dreamers work permits or a path to citizenship.
The polling trends (as demonstrated in the chart to the right) on many immigration issues stand in stark contrast to Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric. An NBC poll last summer found that 64 percent of Americans said immigration strengthens the U.S., up sharply from 47 percent in 2010, with increases among Democrats and Republicans.
In recent weeks, immigration has emerged as the No. 1 concern among Americans, according to the Pew Research Center. When Pew asked that same question in January 2017, immigration lagged behind health care, the economy, unemployment, race relations and the behavior of the president-elect.
Other research has found that Trump’s demonization of immigrants has created a backlash against the president’s signature immigration issue, the building of a border wall.
Support for the wall could further erode if some basic facts about illegal immigration became common knowledge. An analysis of federal data shows that the majority of immigrants settling in the U.S. without proper documentation first came here legally, through one of the U.S. visa programs. They did not sneak into the country.
Crossing the border is not the way “the large majority of persons now become undocumented,” the Center for Migration Studies (CMS) said in its report released last year. In fact, two-thirds of the illegal immigrant population entered with a valid visa and then overstayed their period of legal admission, the center reported.
What’s more, the calls for construction of a border wall ignore the fact that those overstaying their visa have exceeded those crossing the border illegally every year since 2007.