December 18, 2013

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

3. Views about Unauthorized Immigrants and Deportation Worries

Relief from Deportation Seen as More Important than Pathway to Citizenship for Unauthorized ImmigrantsThe Pew Research surveys asked Hispanic adults and Asian-American adults which, in their view, is more important for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the U.S.: “being able to live and work in the U.S. legally without the threat of being deported” or “having a pathway to citizenship for those who meet certain requirements.”

Among Hispanics, a larger share say it is more important that unauthorized immigrants be able to live and work in the U.S. without threat of deportation than say they should have a pathway to citizenship—55% vs. 35%. This view is more pronounced among immigrant Hispanics than it is among native-born Hispanics. Among them, 61% say being able to live and work in the U.S. without the threat of deportation is more important for unauthorized immigrant than having a pathway to citizenship. Meanwhile, just 27% say the opposite—that a pathway to citizenship is more important. Among native-born Hispanics, views are mixed—about half (48%) say it is more important that unauthorized immigrants be able to live and work in the U.S. legally, while 44% say it is more important that these immigrants have a pathway to citizenship.

Relative to Hispanics, views among Asian Americans are more closely divided. Half (49%) say it is more important for unauthorized immigrants to be able to live and work in the U.S. legally without the threat of being deported than having a pathway to citizenship. Some 44% hold the opposite view—that a path to citizenship is more important. When examined by nativity, views are similar—53% of the native-born Asian Americans and 48% of the foreign-born Asian Americans say being able to live and work in the U.S. legally is more important than having a pathway to citizenship.

Deportation Worries

Deportation Worries among Hispanics and Asian AmericansAccording to the Pew Research survey of Hispanics, 46% say they worry “a lot” (25%) or “some” (21%) that they themselves, a family member or a close friend could be deported. By contrast, just 16% of Asian Americans say they worry a lot (8%) or some (8%) about deportation.

Overall deportation worries among Hispanics are down from 2010, when 52% said they worried a lot or some about the deportation of themselves, a family member or a close friend (Lopez, Taylor and Morin, 2010).

The Obama administration has deported nearly 400,000 unauthorized immigrants annually between 2009 and 2012 (Lopez and Gonzalez-Barrera, 2013b). Fully 97% of deportees in 2011 were from Latin America (Department of Homeland Security, 2012).

Effect of Unauthorized Immigration on U.S. Hispanics and U.S. Asian AmericansThe decline in Latino deportation worries since 2010 is greatest among foreign-born Latinos. The new survey finds that 59% of immigrant Latinos say they worry a lot (34%) or some (25%) that they themselves, a family member or a close friend could be deported. In 2010, 68% said the same (Lopez, Taylor and Morin, 2010). Worries about deportation are unchanged among native-born Latinos; in both 2013 and 2010, 32% say they worry a lot or some that that themselves or someone they know may be deported.

By comparison, deportation worries are less prevalent among Asian Americans. Among immigrant Asian Americans, 18% say they worry a lot (9%) or some (9%) that they themselves or someone they know may be deported. That share is twice as high as the 9% of native-born Asian Americans who say the same.

Views of Unauthorized Immigrants

The surveys asked Hispanics and Asian Americans about their views of the impact of unauthorized immigration on Hispanics and Asian Americans already living in the U.S.

Reasons for Negative Effect of Unauthorized Immigration on U.S. Hispanics and U.S. Asian AmericansAbout four-in-ten (38%) Hispanics say the impact of unauthorized immigration on U.S. Hispanics has been positive, 26% say it has had a negative effect and 31% say it has had no effect one way or the other. These findings are little changed from a mid-2013 survey of Hispanic adults (Lopez and Gonzalez-Barrera, 2013c) but are improved compared with 2010, the last year Congress was considering significant new immigration legislation. At that time, 29% of Hispanic adults said the effect of unauthorized immigration on U.S. Hispanics was positive, 31% said negative and 30% said there was no effect one way or the other (Lopez, Taylor and Morin, 2010).

Immigrant Latinos are more likely than native-born Latinos to say unauthorized immigration has had a positive effect on Latinos already living in the U.S.—45% vs. 30%. By contrast, native-born Latinos are more likely than immigrant Latinos to say the impact of unauthorized immigration has been negative on U.S. Latinos (31% vs. 21%) or had no effect one way or the other (37% vs. 26%).

Among Asian Americans, 21% say the effect of unauthorized immigration on Asian Americans already living in the U.S. has been positive, one-quarter (25%) say it has been negative and 44% say there has been no effect one way or the other. These views are similar among Asian-American immigrants and native-born Asian Americans—for example, some 42% of immigrants and 50% of the native born say the impact of unauthorized immigration on Asian Americans already in the U.S. has had no effect one way or the other.

The surveys explored two possible reasons that the impact of unauthorized immigration on their respective communities in the U.S. is negative. Among Hispanics who say this, six-in-ten (60%) say one important reason for this is that unauthorized immigrants create a negative perception of U.S. Hispanics. Among this same group of Hispanics, half (51%) say unauthorized immigrants taking jobs away from Hispanics already living in the U.S. is another important reason for their negative effect.

Among Asian Americans who say the effect of unauthorized immigration on their community is negative, 61% say an important reason is that unauthorized immigrants take jobs away from Asian Americans already in the U.S. And 61% of this group say another important reason is that unauthorized immigrants create a negative perception of Asian Americans already living in the U.S.

Expected Effects of Granting Legal Status to Unauthorized Immigrants

The survey explored the views of Asian Americans and Hispanics on what might happen to the U.S. if unauthorized immigrants were granted legal status. Respondents in both surveys were asked if they thought granting legal status to most of the nation’s 11.7 million unauthorized immigrants would improve the lives of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S., strengthen the U.S. economy, lead to more people coming to the U.S. illegally and reward illegal behavior.

Expected Effect on the Lives of Unauthorized Immigrants Living in the U.S.

Would Granting Legal Status to Unauthorized Immigrants Improve their Lives?

The surveys also asked respondents if they thought granting legal status to unauthorized immigrants would improve the lives of unauthorized immigrants. Fully 87% of Hispanics say yes, it would, as do three-fourths (75%) of Asian Americans. Hispanic immigrants are most likely to hold this view—94% say this, compared with 79% of U.S.-born Hispanics.

Among Asian Americans, the native born and foreign born are as likely to say granting legal status to unauthorized immigrants would improve the lives of unauthorized immigrants—79% vs. 74%.

Expected Effect on the U.S. Economy

When asked if they thought granting legal status to unauthorized immigrants would strengthen the U.S. economy, 76% of Latinos and 59% of Asian Americans say yes, it would. This view is strongest among foreign-born Latinos, among whom 86% say that granting legal status to unauthorized immigrants would strengthen the U.S. economy. Among U.S.-born Latinos, two-thirds (65%) say the same.

Among Asian Americans, 60% of the foreign born and 54% of the native born say granting legal status to undocumented immigrants would strengthen the U.S. economy.

Expected Effect on Unauthorized Immigration

Would Granting Legal Status to Undocumented Immigrants Lead to More People Coming Here Illegally?

Half (51%) of Hispanics say that they thought granting legal status to unauthorized immigrants would lead to more people coming to the U.S. illegally. Among native-born Hispanics, 57% say this would happen if unauthorized immigrants were granted legal status and 38% say it would not. By contrast, foreign-born Hispanics are closely split on the same question—45% say granting legal status to unauthorized immigrants would lead to more people coming to the U.S. illegally and 47% say it would not.

Among Asian Americans, 61% say more people would come to the U.S. illegally if unauthorized immigrants were granted legal status. Immigrant Asian Americans and native-born Asian Americans are about as likely—62% and 57%, respectively—to say more people would come to the U.S. illegally if unauthorized immigrants were granted legal status.

Rewarding Illegal Behavior

When asked if granting legal status to unauthorized immigrants would reward illegal behavior, 53% of Latinos say yes, it would. A greater share of foreign-born Latinos hold this view than native-born Latinos—62% versus 42%.

Among Asian Americans, views are more mixed. Overall, 48% say granting legal status to unauthorized immigrants would reward illegal behavior, while 44% say it would not. Among foreign-born Asian Americans, about half (49%) say granting legal status to unauthorized immigrants would reward illegal behavior.