Survey: Most Americans say U.S. should shelter, not rush to deport, child migrants

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A Hispanic girl slips through the border fence separating the U.S. and Mexico at Border Field State Park in Southern California.

Creative Commons image by Brian Auer

A Hispanic girl slips through the border fence separating the U.S. and Mexico at Border Field State Park in Southern California.

WASHINGTON (RNS) Most Americans say the waves of children crossing into the United States from Central America are refugees fleeing danger at home. And they say the United States should support these children while reviewing their cases, not deport them immediately.

A Hispanic girl slips through the border fence separating the U.S. and Mexico at Border Field State Park in Southern California.

Creative Commons image by Brian Auer

A Hispanic girl slips through the border fence separating the U.S. and Mexico at Border Field State Park in Southern California.

These largely sympathetic views come from all points along the political and religious spectrum, according to a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute Tuesday (July 29).

Democrats (80 percent), independents (69 percent) and Republicans (57 percent) favor offering support to unaccompanied children while a process to review their cases gets underway.

Most major religious groups say the same, including white evangelical Protestants (56 percent), white mainline Protestants (67 percent), minority Protestants (74 percent), Catholics (75 percent) and the religiously unaffiliated (75 percent).

(The survey sample of 1,026 adults was not large enough to capture the views of smaller religious groups, such as Jews, Muslims or Mormons.)

“It makes a difference that we are talking about children facing violence and harm,” said Robert P. Jones, CEO of PRRI. “The value of keeping families together cuts across all party lines.”

As a result, most Americans can make a “pretty clear distinction between the problem of the children arriving from Central America and the problem of illegal immigration in general,” Jones said.

The survey found that overall attitudes toward immigrants are hardening somewhat, with a slight upward shift in the numbers who say they are a burden, not an asset, to the United States.

About one in four Americans (27 percent) see the children as illegal immigrants who should be deported. But 69 percent say they should be treated as refugees and allowed to remain in the United States if authorities determine it is not safe for them to be sent home.

However, Jones said, “even among those who say, in general, to identify and deport them, more than one in three nonetheless say in the case of the children, they would offer support and begin a process of considering if they could stay.”

A Public Religion Research Institute shows attitudes toward Central American children arriving at the border. Graphic by Emily Fetsch, courtesy of PRRI.

A Public Religion Research Institute shows attitudes toward Central American children arriving at the border. Graphic by Emily Fetsch, courtesy of PRRI.

Almost no one thinks the children are traveling thousands of miles without their parents for trivial reasons. The children are seen as fleeing violence and serious threats to their safety at home (45 percent), seeking better education and economic opportunities (34 percent) or both (14 percent).

Seven in 10 Americans (70 percent) say the children should be offered shelter and support while there’s “a process to determine whether they should be deported or allowed to stay.”

Most (56 percent) say these children’s families are “doing what they can to keep their children safe in very difficult circumstances.” At the same time, however, 38 percent say those children’s families are “taking advantage of American good will and are really seeking a back door to immigrate to our country.”

And about one in four (26 percent) say they should be deported immediately.

Few minimize the seriousness of the situation — 36 percent consider it a crisis, and 43 percent call it “a serious problem but not a crisis.”

What to do with these children?

  • Most surveyed (71 percent) said the U.S. should offer “refuge and protection” for those who come to the U.S. “when they are facing serious danger in their home country.”
  • 71 percent also mostly agree that these Central American children waiting for their cases to be heard “should be released to the care of relatives, host families or churches rather than be detained by immigration authorities.” (Twenty-eight percent disagree.)
  • However, only 39 percent would allow these children to stay for good while 59 percent don’t want them here long-term because it “will encourage others to ignore our laws and increase illegal immigration.”

The wave of children at the border is “impacting what Americans think about immigrants generally,” said Daniel Cox, PRRI research director, in a press release. In short, attitudes are becoming more polarized between those who see immigrants as an asset and those who see them as a burden.

In early April, most people (54 percent) said immigrants make the U.S. stronger with their “hard work and talents,” but that figure declined to 49 percent by last week. Meanwhile, more said immigrants “take our jobs, housing and health care” — rising from 38 percent to 42 percent.

Views on access to citizenship or permanent legal residency did not change significantly. Most today (58 percent) would allow a path to citizenship; 17 percent would allow residency. And 22 percent say “identify and deport them.”

The overall survey is based on phone interviews with 1,026 adults, conducted in English and Spanish between July 23 and July 27. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.


  • Doc Anthony

    I still remember how Obama bought Latino votes in 2012 with highly sympathetic, sounded-like-a-promise statements regarding “immigration reform” and “make things easier.” Just vote for Obama and he’d soften things up.

    Obama got what he wanted. But not the Latinos.

  • Larry

    Doc, still peddling such obvious fictions.

    Do you think Latinos were going to vote for Romney? After the GOP all but demonized anyone whose skin was brown for four years and passed some of the most virulently racist nativist laws in the Southwest?

    All Obama had to do for their votes was be breathing and a Democrat.

  • Lles Nats


    Today the Urban Institute came out and said 1 in 4 americans have a debt in collections.

    And in light of this, grossman above reports near universal support for immigrants. But how will we pay for them? We are flat, dead, ridiculously broke.

    Oh, says the liberal….the future generation of american will pay. Great plan. Real upright and moral thinking.

  • Nellie

    Do I feel sorry for them? Yes.
    Am I the Parents to all of these children? No.
    Did I get pregnant out-of-wedlock (which the majority of these people do), and then illegally cross a into another country where I would receive every kind of welfare imaginable? No.
    There is personal responsibility, Folks. There is no requirement that I help these people…IN MY COUNTRY.
    If I have enough money left over from paying Obama “His fair share,” then YES, I would be happy to send money to Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala

  • Larry

    Immigrants made you spend beyond your means Lles?

    Did they trick you into going to that overpriced college for a degree in basketweaving?

    Did the immigrants force you to buy that home with a mortgage you could not possibly afford in a sane fashion? Or worse abuse home equity like an ATM?

    Did they prevent you from watching Suze Orman’s show on MSNBC?

    Immigrants pay for themselves in the end. Without them our population, workforce and markets decline as do all developed nations.

    We have a responsibility to take in people coming to our country seeking refuge and asylum. Its been part of our immigration laws since inception.

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  • Doc Anthony

    In other words, the Latinos were going to vote Democrat anyway, so it is okay for the Liar-In-Chief to take them for granted?

    Sweet-talk ’em, steal their votes, and then leave their Latino kids high and dry when things get really tough? That’s all kewl for Democrats?

  • gilhcan

    Let’s see how the good Christian evangelicals on the right and the good Christian Republicans in the U.S. Congress respond to the needs an desires of people today that are no different than the needs and desires of their not-distant ancestors who immigrated to this country for the very same reasons that people, little and big, wish to come here today.

    We are a disgrace to our claimed political beliefs. We are a disgrace to our claimed religious beliefs. So much for the poll about how many are Christians, how many are believers, how many are non-believers–and the reasons why. “The proof is in the pudding.”

  • Larry

    It is not OK, but likely. Much like how Bill Clinton got the feminist vote despite being a lecherous perv.

    People tend to avoid the candidate who is trying to antagonize you and call you all sorts of rude things.

    As for leaving voters high and dry, that has been how the GOP treated the working class and middle class for the last 3 decades. Get your votes, pay only the most minor lip service to “social conservatism” and get you to approve on measures which attack your personal economic interests. Perfect example is how working class nabobs are supporting an employer treating his workers like personal playthings, violating their privacy, and lying to the public, just because he uses “Jesus” as an excuse.

  • gilhcan

    Nellie: It’s interesting that you resort to latter-day immigration laws and attitudes that are so much more prejudiced and limiting than the attitudes and laws that enabled your ancestors to migrate to this country.

    You obviously don’t even know if or to what degree out-of-wedlock births might pertain to those who wish to escape inhumane conditions elsewhere. And what does it matter? Life is life! Humanity is humanity!

    Also, let me remind you that this country is only “your country,” so-called, because your ancestors were allowed to migrate to this country without the same prejudiced attitudes and conditions that are so prevalent in people like you today.

  • gilhcan

    Lies Nats: As usual, you display a selfish greed that was not present in the attitudes or laws of this country when your ancestors immigrated here.

    If you hit your history books, you will learn that the working class and the poor have always been burdened with low wages and high costs of living to enable the wealthy to become wealthier. An added difference now is that those same wealthy are the ones who own the businesses that have moved their production to other countries where they can find and force even cheaper slave labor.

    The only reason we might find it harder to welcome others to freedom and opportunity now than when your ancestors came here is because the wealthy elect have made conditions here even worse with lower wages, harder work, and less job opportunities for the masses so that they, the wealthy, can still become ever wealthier.

  • Larry

    That and these children are coming in as refugees and asylum seekers. Technically they are here legally. Nellie is just spouting off ignorantly. Nativists tend to do that. They get very vehement about following laws they know nothing about.

    Under various treaties, US Immigration law and the UN charter, the US has a duty to take in people who reach our country as refugees/asylum seekers. So Nellie, they ARE our responsibility.

    We already had a history of sending people back to countries to face impending death. This is something our immigration system is conscious to avoid.

  • Lles Nats

    I asked how are we gonna pay.

    You said something about rich people and called me greedy.


    Please make sense. Preferably in a way that directly relates to the original comment/question.

  • Larry

    They will save money by sending them to all to stay at your house. 🙂

    Just because you didn’t understand gilhcan’s answer doesn’t mean its irrelevant.

    We let billions of tax dollars slip though our grasp due to patronage, pork barrel politics, corrupt privatization scams, and corporate welfare, have the world’s most expensive but least efficient method of developing military hardware yet there is not enough money to care for children our nation is obligated to care for as refugees/asylum seekers?

    Give me a break.

    You made a ridiculous argument trying to blame economic woes on immigrants and asylum seekers. It scarcely deserves a serious answer.

  • gilhcan

    Larry: Hit the books for recent history. Clinton was beyond re-election in 1998 and 1999, unconcerned with the feminist vote or any other vote, when Republicans in Congress were seeking to impeach him. Clinton may have been a marriage cheat, like so many Republicans in Congress at the time, but Republican efforts only disclosed them as hypocrites. It didn’t work.

    Now, since Republicans have become even sleazier when it comes to politics, since they have done absolutely nothing in Congress for four years but prove their racial prejudice against our half-black president, they are trying every dirty trick to sue or impeach him for doing what he has authority to do while they totally ignore the work they were hired by the stupid voters to perform–legislate.

    Guess what the Republican attitude would be against Obama if he were totally black? It is the Republican Party that is corrupt, sleazy, and owned like whores by the likes of the the Romney family, the Adelsons in Nevada, the Koch brothers in Kansas, and Karl Rove.

  • gilhcan

    Most of all, Nellie, it is not your country, it is our country. We, plural, will decide on the legislature that forms the bills, the president who signs them into law, and we will all live by them–including you. It is such a good thing that selfish, greedy people like you are not the majority, not yet, anyway.

    We are stalled at doing nothing because of people like you electing a do-nothing Congress. Sadly, nothing is better than what you advocate. Of course, you are a typical “Christian” of the right-wing sort that is responsible for our do-nothing House of Representatives, meaning the so-called tea party and you evangelicals.

    Your type makes Christianity evil, the do-nothing Republican Party evil, and it makes this country as evil as it ever was, just as evil as in the infamous Know-Nothing Period.

  • larry

    I do not disagree with a word you said. But Clinton’s foibles go back to his days as governor of AK.

    The GOP has gone bonkers since GWB left office. Who would have thunk that he was the last Republican with a semblance of sanity. Certainly few while he was president.

  • AmericanbornPatriot

    These invader anchor babies need to be deported as soon as possible. Does anyone seriously think they will wait around long enough to attend a hearing to establish legal residency. They have no IDs, just names they tell the host country. I believe this article and it’s statistics are about as valid as the information they are giving to ICE when they are questioned.

  • ronald

    I hope we don’t spend too much on these orphans, I can’t work because I’m afraid to go outside due to all the athiests and gays and their anti-Christian persecution. If the goverment spends to much money on these kids, will they run out of money for my SSDI checks?. What with Obamacare and Obama Phones,, we already have too many freeloaders. We don’t need to import them.

  • CGDoc
  • JimmyChonga

    The reasons why most Americans want the illegals sheltered is far different than the fact that most of the do want them sheltered. Most of the citizens that really make this country operate – those that are actually still paying the bills want them housed TEMPORARILY until provisions can be made to send them back.

    Democrats want them housed in interim shelters for later incorporation.

    I have never seen this nation’s citizens so divided, so hostile, so confused about what it means to be living in the LAND OF THE FREE, the HOME OF THE BRAVE.

    One thing is certain, the “community organizer” in chief has a mess on HIS HANDS; but, now we see why it was so necessary to put a man with his unparalleled skill-set in office don’t we: so the “fundamental transformation” of America could take place.

    I can only hope that we don’t “balkanize” into our ethnic enclaves over the course of the next few years, otherwise, we will disintegrate into a roiled-over, half-baked Europe. All people, regardless of party affiliation should always, and at all times know that it was the democrat party that threw our country down the stairs.

  • JimmyChonga

    I always find it amusing that it is the NON-Christian, the NON-believer who always have to think they have the last word of what it means to BE a Christian, to BE a believer. I think someone with prudence and a sense of common decency would know whether he/she is speaking with some “authority” on an issue and, if not, (like in your case) sit down and shut up.

  • JimmyChonga


  • JimmyChonga

    Liberals have no clue – they are blinded by their HATE and the desire to USE the democrat party (who also USES them) to exact their twisted definition of “justice”. This nation has its assets and its asses. Don’t ask me how/why democrats have held political clout for so long. When you have an agenda that begins with the slaughter of the innocent, it can only get uglier from there.

  • JimmyChonga

    Meanwhile, egregious tax rates, run-away inflation on consumables, more than half the population already receiving gov’t aid, and NO JOBS. He//, we should all be immigrating to South America!

  • larry

    Idiot. What you call “anchor babies” are what our laws call NATIVE BORN US CITIZENS. People with the same rights as you and me. This article describes asylum seekers. People who would be entitled to permanent residency upon confirmation of status.

    You nativist nabobs are totally ignorant if the laws you claim to want to uphold. Its nothing more than thinly veiled blind bigotry

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  • Fran

    All of mankind’s corrupt systems, including the economical one, will be done away with by God’s kingdom or heavenly government (Daniel 2:44; Revelation 21:1-4).

    We will no longer be enslaved to that system and be able to experience “true freedom” and the “real life” on earth we were always meant to live. 😀

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  • AmericanbornPatriot

    Senior Larry,

    You must be a mexican. These are the new form of anchor babies. They are illegal invaders who wii eventually have their dead beat, child endangering “parents” come and ask for asylum as well. They do not have the same rights as what you call “nativists”. They are illegal invaders who will try to live off the taxes of Americans. They are just more blatantly breaking the law than you and your relatives did when you swam the Rio Grande and snuck over the border at night. They and you are not “asylum seekers”, just a new form of the horde of Mexican invaders that has been plaguing this country for 50 years, turning our cities and streets into what looks like a third world flea market.

    Larry, why don’t you just move on to the next La Raza demonstration and leave this topic for “nativists” to discuss?

  • dthy

    The children could be placed for adoption in good homes. Some long for a child but cannot conceive. Keeping them in a warehouse situation is not such a good thing for them, but placing them in a welcoming family would be a blessing for all concerned..

  • Larry

    You are still a dangerously stupid person. Dangerous because you are hardly original in your nonsense. You apparently oppose our own immigration laws. Your ignorance of them is only exceeded by the obvious bigotry of your tone. We have a system set up for asylum and refugees which you are unaware of or just don’t care about.

    Everything about your spiel is informed by bigotry. The “Brown menace” tone which is used to demonize every form of immigrant, the complete ignorance of our immigration laws, and the fearmongering panic. Watch out those Hispanics will form communities, become citizens, and then they will be going after our white women!

    “Anchor babies”, aka native born US citizens have the same rights as you do. Fools like yourself want to undermine 14th Amendment citizenship rights. To be able to strip the citizenship of people born in this nation. Why? Blind stupidity. If we can strip the rights of natural born US citizens based on their parentage, we can do it for anyone. The government can declare its citizens non-people.

    You are obviously not an American or not someone who deserves to be living in America. You probably would prefer some place a little more fascist-like. Some place with internal passports, multiple generations of non-citizens born here and a government which can declare you a non-person.

    Btw I was born in this country. Unlike yourself I understand and appreciate the freedoms it has and how its system works. You are simply an ignorant fool who is looking for an excuse for socially sanctioned bigotry.

  • ronald

    The great Michelle Malkin was also an anchor baby, so maybe the silver lining of this dark cloud is that we will get a new South American version of Michelle Malkin in about 30 years, just when we are in need of fresh new patriotic Christian voices!

  • AmericanbornPatriot

    Senior Larry,

    I don’t care if you were born here, you sound like an anchor baby yourself. If anybody is stupid Senior Larry, it is you. You obviously do not have a job as anyone can see you posted many of your comments when most “nativists” are working, trying to pay their taxes so you and your fellow anchor babies can live off the backs of “nativists”. Most “nativists” do not want an America that resembles the crime ridden, drug smuggling hell hole that Mexico is. And by having open borders , as we essentially have, it is turning into just that. Senior Larry, do you know your people (illegal invaders) make up at least 30 percent of inmates in Federal prision? You know why they are there Senior Larry? They are there mostly for drug smuggling drugs into the U.S..
    Smuggling things like black tar herion that is destroying lives among the “nativists”. I dare not go into population numbers about State prision percentages of inmates that are illegal “immigrants”, as it may offend your little border jumping feelings…. Larry your friends are driving this once great country into being a total welfare state fiesta, with the middle class “nativists” paying the bill so you and your Rio Grande swimming buddies can get free healthcare, free educations , and yes Senior Larry, a massively disproportionate piece of the welfare taco. So Senior Larry, Adios, and I will hope you find some people who think the way you do when you go to your little La Raza demonstrations.

  • Larry

    Man, you are stupid. “Anchor babies” aka NATIVE BORN US CITIZENS WITH THE SAME RIGHTS AS YOU vote. Politicians who appeal to bigoted ignoramuses like yourself only want your vote and nothing else. No legislation to deal with “anchor babies” would ever get to the floor of Congress. Nobody wants to be known as the person who voted to take away the rights of NATIVE BORN US CITIZENS that you despise so much.

    Only a complete idiot with no regard for our nation, its laws and constitution would consider something as silly as trying to strip the citizenship of people born here. If you can do it based on something as ridiculous as your family background, what keeps them from doing it to you? Nothing. Only a self-destructive fascist fool would support something like that.

    “do you know your people (illegal invaders) make up at least 30 percent of inmates in Federal prision? ”

    1. if it is coming from you, it is probably bullcrap
    2. What you are saying is that dumb inbred rednecks make up the overwhelming majority of inmates in Federal prison. Somewhere around 70%

    If I go to the trailer park where you reside, it will resemble the crime ridden, drug smuggling hell hole that Mexico is.

    As for welfare, that is reserved entirely for US citizens. Illegals don’t get squat. You have no clue what you are talking about. Everyone is paying so you can continue to cook meth in your backyard.
    This whole thing is all informed of your fear that your inbred teenage daughter will have her 3rd child with a Hispanic guy before she hits 17.

  • AmericanbornPatriot

    Senior Larry,

    You are so stupid in that you cannot understand that when I am talking about the new form of anchor baby, I am referring to these new illegal invaders that once placed inside the US, their Mama, poppy, Uncle Pedro, and Auntie Mamosa will mysteriously come forward and demand citizenship so they too can take care of little Juanito, and (sniff…sniff…) “escape the violence” of the rat hole they have just emerged from.

    Senior Larry, politicians are not formenting the dislike of Mexicans…Mexicans are doing a great job of that all by themselves.

    Now for some real facts, Senior Larry:
    Washington, D.C., June 19, 2014: A new study released by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) finds that providing education, health care, law enforcement, and social and government services to illegal aliens and their dependents costs Californians $25.3 billion per year according to FAIR’s report The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on California Taxpayers. The state’s 3 million illegal aliens and their 1.1 million U.S.–born children cost the average California household — headed by a U.S. citizen — $2,370 annually.

    Senior Larry, you unemployed waste of taxpayer sweat, can clearly see why I say that your breed is sucking the welfare budget dry. 25 billion plus a year in California alone. What do Californians get in return? Squat. Senior Larry, your breed is something that America just cannot afford now or ever. Now we have these extra little invaders to add to the bill, as well as their sorry familia , who will soon creep over our borders.

    Senior Larry, no one is paying anything for me, I am paying taxes while you and your type can siesta and act all tough on message boards when you should be working. Maybe once you have a job and start paying taxes you too will discover that you are full of guano.

    For those who like to deal in facts and not mindless rhetoric like Senior Larry. Here are some facts:

    In 1986, Congress granted amnesty to 3.1 million illegal aliens.
    In 1990, Congress increased legal immigration by 40%, and granted amnesty to the illegal relatives of aliens who benefited from the previous amnesty.
    10-20 million illegal aliens presently roam the U.S. The number of illegal aliens doubled in the 1990’s.
    Each year more than 1.3 million legal and illegal aliens settle permanently in the U.S.
    For every 100 illegal aliens who find jobs in the U.S., 65 American workers are displaced.
    Each year, more than 72,000 aliens are arrested for drug offenses in the U.S.
    Illegal aliens constitute over 25% of the federal prison population. Think about that for a moment. This means that a group which comprises less than 5% of the population is committing 25% percent of the crime.
    In some areas of the country, up to 12 % of felonies, 25% of burglaries and 34% of thefts are committed by illegal aliens.
    In Los Angeles alone, 95% of all outstanding warrants for homicide (which total approximately 1,200-1,500) target illegal aliens. Up to 2/3 of all fugitive felony warrants (approximately 17,000) are for illegal aliens.
    In Lake County, Illinois 1/2 of the murderers and 21.5% of all criminals now in jail are illegal aliens, costing the county an annualized rate of $4,056, 945.
    Approximately 400,000 illegal aliens who have committed crimes and have been given a deportation order are at large in the U.S. and their whereabouts unknown.
    In fiscal year 1999, expenses for incarcerating illegal aliens in state & local jails in Pennsylvania alone cost taxpayers $13.3 million. It has been established that the nationwide costs to states and localities for housing illegal criminal aliens is about $2 billion per year.
    A 2011 report on the fiscal burden of illegal immigration on United States taxpayers found the following:

    Illegal immigration costs U.S. taxpayers about $113 billion a year at the federal, state and local level. The bulk of the costs — some $84 billion — are absorbed by state and local governments.

    The annual outlay that illegal aliens cost U.S. taxpayers is an average amount per native-headed household of $1,117. The fiscal impact per household varies considerably because the greatest share of the burden falls on state and local taxpayers whose burden depends on the size of the illegal alien population in that locality

    Education for the children of illegal aliens constitutes the single largest cost to taxpayers, at an annual price tag of nearly $52 billion. Nearly all of those costs are absorbed by state and local governments.

    At the federal level, about one-third of outlays are matched by tax collections from illegal aliens. At the state and local level, an average of less than 5 percent of the public costs associated with illegal immigration is recouped through taxes collected from illegal aliens.

    Most illegal aliens do not pay income taxes. Among those who do, much of the revenues collected are refunded to the illegal aliens when they file tax returns. Many are also claiming tax credits resulting in payments from the U.S. Treasury.
    Additionally, the estimated cost of illegal immigration to Indiana state and local governements is $608 million per year.

  • NoIwiil Not

    If you say most Americans (legal citizens) do not want immediate deportation of all illegal aluens, you are just plain lying.

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  • Ch

    Wow dude, you are psycho…

  • Ch

    you are also psycho… i have no idea what you talking about

  • Ch

    Its funny because so many poor white trash type who rely on welfare and dont even try to get jobs get pissed about immigrants or blacks using welfare. It is so sad.

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