Most Americans think the U.S. government should allow the more than 60,000 unaccompanied minors that have crossed illegally into the country this year to be reunited with their family members living in the United States, according to a poll published Wednesday by the Pew Center for the People and the Press.
Some 69 percent of respondents said the young migrants should be released into the custody of their family members while their deportation cases proceed in court. A smaller majority, 56 percent, said they supported the Central American migrants enrolling in U.S. public schools.
The national survey of 1,501 adults was released as the political conflict over how to address the unaccompanied minors crisis further undermined an already derailed debate over immigration reform.
Republicans foisted the blame for the crisis on President Barack Obama, saying policies like the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, sent the message that minors who arrived here illegally would be allowed to stay. Last month, House Republicans, joined by a handful of Democrats, voted symbolically to end DACA.
In fact, little evidence supports the assertion that DACA prompted the influx of child migrants. The wave of migration owes primarily to out-of-control violence in the Central American countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, along with the growing awareness among both migrants’ families and human traffickers that U.S. law requires unaccompanied minors from Central America go through a deportation process that often allows the young migrants to be released from detention -- effectively allowing them to stay in the United States. That law predates the Obama presidency.
Pew’s poll offered some positive news for immigration hawks. The share of people who say solutions to the problem of illegal immigration should focus on border security has jumped to 33 percent since Feb. 2013, when the figure stood at 25 percent. By contrast, the share of people who say lawmakers should prioritize a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants dropped to 23 percent from 25 percent in the same period.
Those who say both should be given equal emphasis topped the other two responses, at 41 percent. That figure had dropped since Feb. 2012, however, from 47 percent.