Leading Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have been competing with each other over who has the toughest stance on immigration. They’ve called for more deportations and aggressive immigration enforcement.
But a new survey finds most people in Arizona do not agree with those views.
The survey released this week by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute shows 60 percent of Arizonans surveyed said they support allowing undocumented immigrants to become U.S. citizens if they meet certain requirements. Only 19 percent said they thought undocumented immigrants should be identified and deported.
Similar results were found among Americans nationwide. An estimated 62 percent of Americans said undocumented immigrants should be allowed to become U.S. citizens while 19 percent said they want them identified and deported.
“The evidence is clear — the hateful, anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from the GOP presidential candidates isn’t in line with the views of most Americans,” Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego said in a statement to the New Times.
“Instead of pandering to the far-right wing of their own party, Republicans should be taking steps to reform our immigration laws and create a path to citizenship for undocumented families,” Gallego continued. “That’s what the American people want, and that’s the right thing to do.”
None of the three Republicans still running for president supports a path to citizenship for immigrants living here illegally.
Trump has called for mass deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants, as well as the building of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and making Mexico pay for it. Cruz has said he supports “attrition through enforcement,” which is similar to Mitt Romney’s “self-deport” idea of making life so difficult for undocumented immigrants that they will want to return to their home countries.
Trump’s and Cruz’s Arizona campaigns did not respond to email and phone-call requests for comment from the New Times.
Ohio Governor John Kasich has more moderate views on immigration. The GOP presidential candidate backs a path to permanent legal resident status but not citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Fifteen percent of Americans and Arizonans support that, according to the survey.
On the Democratic side, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have come out in support of a path to citizenship. They’ve also vowed to go further than President Obama did on immigration if Congress fails to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill.
Sergio Adalberto Arellano-Oros of the Arizona Republican Party said there’s a consensus among Arizona Republicans to work toward immigration reform, though he wouldn’t say whether the most support is for allowing undocumented immigrants to become citizens or permanent legal residents.
“We can all agree that the immigration system right now isn’t working,” he said. “It’s overburdened, and it needs reform.”
Arellano-Oro added that most Republicans he speaks to are for “the rule of law.” But he said they also see the “humanitarian” aspect of immigration and how human smugglers and the cartels often prey on immigrants trying to cross the border. Those who do make it across often are underpaid and taken advantage of by employers, he said.
“I think we’re more humanitarian in that approach, and we’re not about the militarization of the border like is being portrayed in the media, and about ‘let's close the borders’ and ‘they all have to go back,’” he said.
The survey shows there’s more support for a path to citizenship among Democrats than there is among Republicans. More than seven in 10 Democrats said they back a path to citizenship, compared to a slim majority of Republicans.
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When Republicans are divided by age, however, the survey shows young Republicans are much more likely to have a favorable view of immigrants and to support a path to citizenship than are older Republicans.
According to the survey, 63 percent of Republicans under the age of 30 said they back a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who meet certain requirements. Only 20 percent said they favor identifying and deporting undocumented immigrants.
In contrast, 47 percent of Republicans age 65 and older support allowing undocumented immigrants to be put on the path to citizenship, and 34 percent favored deportation.
The survey findings are based on 42,586 telephone interviews conducted nationwide between April 29, 2015, and January 7, 2016. Of those interviews, 829 were of Arizona residents. The margin of error is plus or minus one percentage point for the national sample and plus or minus four percentage points for the Arizona sample.