December 18, 2013

On Immigration Policy, Deportation Relief Seen As More Important Than Citizenship

2. Views of the New Immigration Legislation Being Considered by Congress

The two surveys explored Hispanics’ and Asian Americans’ views and awareness of new immigration legislation being considered by Congress. The surveys also asked respondents about how important it is that comprehensive immigration reform be passed this year—and who would be most responsible if it didn’t pass.

Following the New Immigration Legislation

Most Have Seen or Heard about New Immigration LegislationAccording to the new surveys, about 26% of Hispanics and 19% of Asian Americans say they have heard “a lot” about the immigration legislation being considered by Congress. An additional 59% of Hispanics and 60% of Asians say they have seen or heard “a little” about it.

Among native-born Hispanics, 79% say they have seen or heard a lot or a little about new immigration legislation being considered. And fully 89% of immigrant Hispanics says they have seen or heard a lot or a little about the legislation.

Among immigrant Asian Americans, 80% have seen or heard a lot or a little about the new immigration legislation being considered by Congress. Some three-fourths (74%) of native-born Asian Americans say they have seen or heard a lot or a little about the legislation.

Support for the New Legislation

Favor or Oppose the New Immigration Legislation in Congress? Most Don’t Know Enough to SayWhen asked if they favor or oppose the new immigration legislation being considered in Congress, or if they don’t know enough to say, 67% of Hispanics and 72% of Asian Americans say they don’t know enough about the new legislation to say. However, among those who do offer an opinion on the new legislation, Hispanics are more likely than Asian Americans to say they favor it—27% vs. 20%.

Views of the new immigration legislation tend to be associated with nativity for Hispanics and Asian Americans. Among Hispanics, 38% of the foreign born favor the new immigration legislation, more than double the share among the native born (15%). Similarly, immigrant Asian Americans are more than twice as likely as native-born Asian Americans (24% vs. 9%) to say they favor the new immigration legislation being considered by Congress.

Views about the new immigration legislation being considered by Congress are also associated with how much respondents have seen or heard about it. For example, among Hispanics who have seen or heard a lot about it, 46% say they favor the new legislation, 12% say they oppose it and 41% say they don’t know enough to say. Among Hispanics who have heard a little about the new legislation, 22% say they favor it, 3% say they oppose it and three-fourths (74%) say they don’t know enough about it to say.

For Asian Americans, the same is true. Among those who have heard or seen a lot about the immigration legislation being considered by Congress, 48% say they favor it, 13% oppose it and 37% say they don’t know enough about it to say. Among Asian Americans who have seen or heard a little about the new legislation, 16% say they favor it and 7% say they oppose it, while 77% say they don’t know enough about it to say.

Importance of Passing New Immigration Legislation This Year

Importance of Passing Significant New Immigration Legislation this YearThe U.S. Congress has been considering immigration reform legislation throughout 2013. In June 2013, the U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill—including a pathway to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants who meet certain requirements and pay fines. But since then, the legislation has remained stalled in the House of Representatives.

The two surveys asked respondents about the importance of passing new immigration legislation this year. Among Hispanics, 69% say it is “extremely” (38%) or “very” (31%) important that this happen. By contrast, just 44% of Asian Americans say the same.

Among both groups, immigrants are more likely than the native born to say it is at least very important that significant new immigration legislation be passed this year. Among Hispanics, eight-in-ten (80%) immigrants say this, compared with 57% of native-born Hispanics. Among Asian-American immigrants, half (49%) say it is at least very important that immigration legislation be passed this year. Among native-born Asian Americans, 31% say the same.

Among Latinos who say they have seen or heard “a lot” about the new immigration legislation, fully 83% say it is “extremely” (45%) or “very” (38%) important that it be passed this year. That share falls to 69% among those who say they have seen or heard “a little” about the new legislation (39% say extremely important and 30% say very important). And among Latinos who say they have seen or heard “nothing at all” about the new legislation, just 44% say it is extremely (20%) or very (25%) important that significant new immigration legislation be passed this year.

The Pew Research survey of Asian Americans shows a similar pattern. Among Asian Americans who say they have seen or heard a lot about the new immigration legislation, 57% say it is extremely (30%) or very (27%) important that it be passed this year. That share is 47% among those who say they have seen or heard a little about it (12% say extremely important and 35% say very important). The share falls to 27% among those who say they have heard or seen nothing at all about the new legislation (11% say extremely important and 16% say very important).

If Legislation Doesn’t Pass, Who Is Responsible—Republicans or Democrats?

If New Immigration Legislation Does Not Pass this Year, Who Is to Blame?The Pew Research surveys asked Latinos and Asian Americans who would be responsible if significant new immigration legislation does not pass this year. Overall, half (48%) of Asian Americans and 43% of Latinos say Republicans in Congress would be most responsible.

At the same time, about three-in-ten (29%) Asian Americans say either Democrats in Congress (12%) or President Obama (13%) or both (4% volunteered this response) would be most to blame. Among Latinos, one-third (34%) say either Democrats in Congress (15%) or President Obama (18%) or both (1%) would be most to blame.

The foreign born and the native born hold similar views about this. For example, among Asian Americans, 54% of the native born and 47% of the foreign born say Republicans in Congress would be most responsible if new immigration legislation does not pass this year. In addition, 26% of native-born Asian Americans and 31% of foreign-born Asian Americans say either Democrats in Congress, President Obama or both would be most responsible if significant new immigration legislation doesn’t pass this year.

Among Hispanics, 39% of the native born and 46% of the foreign born would blame Republicans in Congress if significant new immigration legislation does not pass this year. But a significant share—36% of the native born and 33% of the foreign born—say they would blame Democrats in Congress, President Obama or both.

Top Issues for Hispanics and Asian Americans

Hispanics and Asian-American respondents rate immigration as lower in importance for the nation today than four other domestic issues tested in the two new Pew Research Center surveys. Among Hispanics, the top-rated issue among the five tested is education. Among Asian Americans, the top-rated issue is jobs and the economy.

Each survey asked respondents to rate the importance of five domestic issues—jobs and the economy, education, health care, immigration and the federal government debt.

Top Issues Facing the Nation TodayEducation is considered an extremely important issue facing the country by about half (54%) of Hispanics. Jobs and the economy is regarded as an extremely important issue facing the country today by 47% of Hispanics, and health care by 41%. In addition, 38% of Hispanics say the federal government debt is an extremely important issue facing the nation today. Both survey data collections were fielded right as the U.S. federal government emerged from a two-week shutdown. About one-third (32%) of Latinos say immigration is an extremely important issue facing the country today.

Among Asian Americans, the highest rated issue is jobs and the economy—63% say this is an extremely important issue facing the country today. Next is education, with 56% of Asian Americans saying the issue is extremely important. That is followed by the federal government debt with 41% and health care with 40%. Overall, just 17% of Asian-American adults say immigration is an extremely important issue facing the country today.

For Hispanics, immigration has consistently rated lower than such issues as education, jobs and health care (Lopez and Gonzalez-Barrera, 2012; Lopez, 2010; Lopez and Livingston, 2009). However, the two new surveys also find that Hispanics are about twice as likely as Asian Americans to say immigration is an “extremely important” issue facing the nation today—32% vs. 17%.

Immigration as an issue is just as important for native-born Hispanics as it is for foreign-born Hispanics—33% and 30%, respectively, say the issue is an extremely important one facing the nation today. By contrast, among Asian Americans the native born are less likely than the foreign born to say immigration is an “extremely important” one facing the nation—7% vs. 20%.

Views of Specific Immigration Policy Proposals

Asian Americans and Hispanics express strong support for many of the immigration reform proposals being considered by Congress. Each survey asked respondents about creating a pathway to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants, increasing the number of temporary work visas for highly skilled workers, increasing the number of temporary work visas for agricultural and food industry workers, and increasing enforcement of immigration laws at U.S. borders.

Views of Current Immigration Policy Proposals

Creating a Pathway to Citizenship

Fully 89% of Latinos support creating a pathway to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants who meet certain requirements, according to the survey. Among Latinos, immigrants are more likely than the native born to say they approve of this proposal—95% vs. 83%. Latinos make up about three-fourths of the nation’s estimated 11.7 million unauthorized immigrants (Passel, Cohn and Gonzalez-Barrera, 2013).

A majority of Asian Americans (72%) say they approve creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants if they meet certain requirements. Among Asian Americans, the native born are more likely than the foreign born to say they approve of this—85% vs. 68%.

Temporary Work Visas for Agriculture and Food Industry Workers

Some 85% of Latinos and 79% of Asian Americans say they approve of a proposal to increase the number of temporary work visas for agriculture and food industry workers. Support for this proposal is high among immigrants and the native born among both groups. About nine-in-ten (89%) immigrant Latinos and 80% of native-born Latinos say they approve of this proposal. A similar pattern exists among Asian Americans; 78% of immigrant Asian Americans and 83% of native-born Asian Americans say the same.

Temporary Work Visas for Highly Skilled Workers

Asian Americans and Hispanics support a proposal to increase the number of temporary work visas for highly skilled workers. Overall 83% of Asian Americans and 85% of Hispanics say they approve of this proposal. The native born and the foreign born are equally likely to support it. Some 84% of the native-born Asian Americans and 82% of immigrant Asian Americans say they approve of a proposal to increase the number of temporary work visas for highly skilled workers. Among Hispanics, 83% of the native born and 88% of the foreign born say the same.

Enforcement of Immigration Laws at U.S. Borders

When it comes to increasing enforcement of immigration laws at U.S. borders, the surveys find that two-thirds (68%) of Hispanics and 73% of Asian Americans say they approve of this proposal.

Among Hispanics, the native born are more likely than the foreign born to say they approve of increased enforcement of immigration laws at U.S. borders—74% vs. 63%. Among Asian Americans, two-thirds of the native born say this, as do 75% of the foreign born, though the difference is not statistically significant. However, as with Hispanics, large shares of each group of Asian Americans say they approve of increased border enforcement.