On immigration reform, rhetoric has often been out of sync with public opinion. Despite roughly three-quarters of Americans supporting the goals behind President Obama’s executive action on immigration, Obama’s new immigration plan has run into repeated Republican roadblocks. Republican governors in 26 states are suing the Obama administration, claiming that the order exceeded Obama’s authority. A Republican-appointed judge in Texas ruled in favor of the GOP governors and issued an injunction halting the policy’s implementation. Republican congressional leaders are pursuing a parallel track to block the implementation of the executive action. GOP lawmakers have set up a partisan showdown by attaching riders to the Department of Homeland Security funding bill that would defund Obama’s executive action on immigration. That bill, or a continuing resolution, must pass this week in order for DHS to remain open.
Today, the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) released the American Values Atlas, an online interactive map that provides an unprecedented portrait of America’s changing religious and political landscape. The AVA was designed to harness the power of big data—more than 40,000 telephone interviews—in order to provide a lens for understanding public opinion at levels not typically possible—such as at the state and metro level—or among smaller subgroups of Americans whose voices cannot be discerned in typical surveys. The AVA includes two measures in the area of immigration, one focused on policy, and the other on how immigrants are perceived. And the results are revealing.
At the national level, the AVA finds solid support for a path to citizenship. When asked to identify the best approach for dealing with immigrants who are living in the country illegally, six in 10 Americans say there should be a way for such immigrants to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements, while 17 percent say they should be allowed to become permanent legal residents but not citizens, and 19 percent say they should be identified and deported. Similarly, Americans hold fairly positive assessments of the economic impact of immigrants, with 55 percent saying that immigrants strengthen the country because of their hard work and talents, while only 36 percent say that immigrants are a burden on the country because they take jobs, housing, and healthcare.