WASHINGTON -- While most Americans think undocumented immigrants should get a chance to become legal residents, they're split on whether a recent uptick in deportations is a good or bad thing, according to a poll released Thursday by Pew Research Center.
The report comes at a time when both immigration reform and deportations are being hotly debated. The House GOP is considering whether to move forward with reform, potentially including legal status for currently undocumented immigrants. While advocates push for legislation, there's a parallel effort to convince President Barack Obama to slow the rate of deportations and provide reprieve to families and communities torn apart by deportations.
The new poll found broad support for allowing some undocumented immigrants to remain in the country legally, which would in effect stem the tide of deportations. Seventy-three percent of those polled support such a measure, while 24 percent oppose allowing undocumented immigrants to stay.
Republicans also favor legal status for undocumented immigrants -- 64 percent said they would support it. But there was more narrow support for allowing undocumented immigrants to become citizens -- only 46 percent of Americans said they believe there should be a path to citizenship. Another 24 percent said undocumented immigrants should be confined to legal status only.
The view on deportations -- which hit a record high in 2012 at more than 400,000 -- showed a very divided opinion among Americans. Forty-five percent of people said the increase in deportations over recent years was a bad thing, another 45 percent called it a good thing. That split largely along party lines: 55 percent of Republicans said it was a good thing to deport more immigrants, while 53 percent of Democrats said it was a bad thing.
The current undocumented population stands at about 11.7 million people, according to estimates from Pew Research Center Hispanic Trends Project last year.
The poll released on Thursday was conducted from Feb. 14 to Feb. 23 among 1,821 adults.