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So, just where do Americans stand on the red-hot issue of illegal immigration? Is it true that they want the government to just “build the dang fence” and be done with it? Are they so fed up with those who have violated immigration laws that they are clamoring for mass deportation? Or do they want immigration reform that combines enforcement with legal status for those rooted here? Do they like the Arizona “papers, please” immigration law and want other states to act, or do they want a comprehensive, federal solution?
A careful reading of opinion surveys over several years shows that the public has a sophisticated understanding of what constitutes a pragmatic immigration solution, and what constitutes political pandering.
In sum, here is where they stand: They are fed-up and frustrated, but only some are angry at immigrants; most are frustrated with the federal government’s failure to advance a solution. The broken immigration system has become for them a potent symbol of how Washington has failed to step up and solve tough problems. They want their leaders to take bold action that ends illegal immigration. And the action they strongly prefer is a national and comprehensive approach that couples enforcement measures at the border and the workplace with a practical and humane path to legal status for those here without papers.