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New Poll: Americans Support Syrian Refugee Admissions, Strongly Favor Legalization over Deportation and View Immigrants as Strengthening the Nation

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Frank Sharry: “While most Americans embrace newcomers and policies that welcome them, most Republicans do not.”

Amidst ongoing attention to the vile rhetoric and nativist proposals from Donald Trump – and strongly backed by his supporters – new polling from Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) adds a welcome reminder that the majority of Americans are not swayed by Trump’s fearmongering. PRRI is a high-respected non-partisan public opinion research organization, and the key findings regarding refugees and immigrants are as follows:

A Majority of Americans Support Syrian Refugee Resettlement in America: When asked their preferenceif the U.S. should “allow refugees from Syria into the United States as long as they go through a security clearance process” or if the U.S. “should not allow any refugees from Syria into the United States at this time,” Americans support allowing Syrian refugees to resettle in America by a 53%-41% margin. As PRRI’s poll summary recaps, “Despite heightened concerns about terrorism—and political rhetoric linking Muslim refugees to the threat of terrorism—a majority (53%) of Americans support allowing Syrian refugees to come to the U.S. provided they go through a security clearance process. However, more than four in ten (41%) oppose admitting Syrian refugees into the country. There are major partisan divisions in views about admitting Syrian refugees. Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to support allowing Syrian refugees into the U.S. (63% vs. 35%, respectively). A majority (56%) of independents also favor admitting Syrian refugees.”

By a 4:1 Margin, Public Supports “Stay Here” over “Get Out” Policies for Undocumented Immigrants: By a 4:1 margin (78% to 18%), Americans back either a pathway to citizenship (63%) or legalization short of citizenship (15%) instead of deportation-focused policies (18%). As the PRRI poll summary states, “support for comprehensive immigration reform also continues to be robust. More than six in ten (63%) say that the immigration system should allow immigrants who are now living in the U.S. illegally a way to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements; 15 percent of the public say immigrants should be allowed to become permanent legal residents, but should not be granted citizenship; and roughly one in five (18%) say all immigrants living in the U.S. illegally should be deported. Support for a path to citizenship for immigrants currently living in the country illegally has been incredibly stable since early 2013.”

More Americans View Immigrants as Strengthening America: When asked about “the growing numbers of newcomers from other countries,” Americans still view immigrants as a strength, not a threat.  According to PRRI’s poll summary, “Roughly half (48%) of Americans say the growing number of newcomers from other countries strengthen American society, compared to 35% who say they threaten traditional American customs and values. Roughly one in ten (11%) Americans agree with both or neither statements, while seven percent offer no opinion. Stark partisan differences in views about immigration endure. Republicans are roughly twice as likely as Democrats to say that newcomers from other countries represent a threat to traditional American customs and values (53% vs. 27%, respectively). A majority (56%) of Democrats say that immigrants strengthen American society. The views of independents are nearly identical to the views of Americans overall.” Of note and despite what we’re witnessing from Trump and his fellow GOP presidential contenders, the first two times PRRI asked this question (in August 2011 and February 2013), the percentage of respondents viewing newcomers as “threatening” American society was actually higher than currently (42% and 40% respectively, compared to 35% now).

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “The findings underscore a growing partisan gap. While most Americans embrace newcomers and policies that welcome them, most Republicans do not. This strongly suggests that current spasm of xenophobic rhetoric and proposals says much more about the state of today’s GOP than it says about the extent of nativism in today’s America. Let us hope that enough Republicans regain their senses and move their party to join with the majority of Americans so that we strengthen our tradition as a nation of immigrants and a haven for the persecuted. If not, they will find themselves on the losing side of the upcoming national election and the wrong side of history.”