The debate over the future of the nation’s estimated 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants is on the political front burner once more.
President Barack Obama set the stage in November when he announced new executive actions (now tied up in court) to prevent the deportation of millions of unauthorized immigrants, expanding 2012’s original program aimed mostly at providing relief to those brought to the United States as children. Illegal immigration has dominated the Republican presidential campaign, particularly after Donald Trump’s call for deporting all undocumented immigrants in the United States and building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Others have called for a changing the constitutional amendment that guarantees birthright citizenship.
Among the public overall, there is little support for an effort to deport all those in the United States illegally, but surveys in past years have found greater support for building a barrier along the Mexican border and for changing the Constitution to ban birthright citizenship.
Republicans have long been conflicted over U.S. immigration policy. On the one hand, consistent majorities of Republicans favor providing a path to legal status for people in the United States illegally. Yet most Republicans also worry that granting legal status to undocumented immigrants would amount to a tacit reward for illegal behavior. And in the past, nearly half of Republicans supported changing the Constitution to bar birthright citizenship, and a majority supported building a fence along the entire U.S. border with Mexico.