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How Do Americans Really Feel About Illegal Immigration?

views on illegal immigration

Illegal immigration is one of the hot button issues of 2012 along with gay marriage and the legality of marijuana.

With President Barack Obama’s re-election, who has made immigration a major priority in his own campaign, it is likely going to remain a major issue throughout the upcoming year.

While public opinion may be somewhat divided, and not surprisingly by political party and location, recent polls show that many Americans may be softening when it comes to immigration.

Certain states like Arizona, California, Texas and New Mexico feel the effects of illegal immigration more than others however, illegal immigration is an issue for all states, and there are supporters and detractors everywhere.

Tainted Perception: Images of Illegal Immigrants Fading

In the past, illegal immigration has been an issue partly because of the fear of average Americans.

immigration vs crime

Many Americans believed that allowing illegal immigrants to become citizens would increase drug-related crime and issues in the United States.

The blame for this negative image has little to do with real statistics and more to do with fear-mongering among certain political groups and outsiders.

The truth is, the amount of drug-related crimes doesn’t go up when the amount of illegal immigrants in the country goes up.

murder in mexico

In fact, many of the illegal immigrants that come to the United States, despite their illegal status, do so in order to flee corrupt government regimes and countries with excessively high murder rates.

Most of the people that come to the United States illegally do so under duress, and with the intention of building a better life for themselves, not to sell illegal drugs or promote the drug trade.

Moving to the United States permanently isn’t something most drug-runners want to do, and most drugs not manufactured in the United States are sold by non-citizens that do not reside in the United States.

Path to Citizenship

american dream

There is a great deal of discussion about creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants that currently live in the United States however, many Americans don’t really understand what that term means.

The path to citizenship initiative would allow illegal immigrants currently living in the United States to become citizens of the United States – under certain conditions.

Some proposals require illegal immigrants looking to become permanent citizens of the United States to pay a fine – basically a retroactive penalty assessed by the United States government for coming to the United States illegally.

While some people support this fine for illegal immigrants, others believe that it will keep poor immigrants from coming forward and seeking citizenship.

As of 2012, no exact fine amount is being discussed.

The path to citizenship also requires people seeking citizenship to meet other requirements.

Most of these other requirements have not been named however, many people expect that these other requirements will be basic – things like staying out of trouble with the law and paying regular income taxes and government fees.

Public Opinion

A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that approximately 57% of Americans would support a path to citizenship program under the right conditions.

That number increases to nearly 65% if it applies to already employed illegal immigrants.

That slight rise makes sense since many natural-born United States citizens are worried about finding a job in a tough economy.

Public Opinion Split by Age

Younger Generation

According to the aforementioned ABC News/Washington Post poll published in November 2012, public opinion is split by age.

Many people believe this is because of lingering negative perceptions of illegal immigrants in the older generation, while a younger generation is more familiar with a country filled with highly-productive illegal immigrants.

Nearly 70% of adults between the ages of 18 and 29 support immigration reform and would vote for a path to citizenship program.

Only 47% of adults 65 years of age or older would support a path to citizenship program for illegal immigrants – even those working full-time jobs.

Still, that number is considerably higher than it was 10 years ago.

With the numbers the way they are, any path to citizenship initiatives put forth by the current administration are likely to pass, meaning most Americans are willing to welcome productive immigrants into the United States as citizens.

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