Survey: Majority of Citizens Favor Path to Citizenship Immigration Reform

U.S. citizens have a complex view of immigration, but a majority believe that immigration strengthens American society and that reform should include a path to citizenship, according to recent surveys by the Public Religion Research Institute.

When participants in the “What it Means to be American” survey were asked whether immigrants are changing American society, 53 percent of respondents said yes, though only 38 percent said immigrants are changing their own community. When a separate group of respondents in the “Pluralism, Immigration, and Civic Integration Survey” were asked whether immigrants strengthen American society, 53 percent said yes while 42 percent said immigrants threaten American values.

Regarding immigration reform strategies, 62 percent of “What it Means” respondents said they favor a policy of increased border security coupled with a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who are already U.S. residents. Thirty-six percent said the government should secure the borders and arrest and deport those illegals already living here. These answers were split on political party lines, with about 75 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of independents favoring the former approach and about 60 percent of Tea Party-affiliated respondents preferring the latter.

The partisan divide has been illustrated by the furor regarding recent statements made by Texas Governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry. Perry has come under fire from the right wing of the GOP for allowing illegal immigrants to pay in-state college tuition in Texas.