Poll finds deportation concerns outweigh path to citizenship

Hispanic and Asian Americans believe relief from deportation is more important for illegal immigrants than a pathway to citizenship, according to a new poll. 

A Pew Research poll released Thursday finds Hispanics by a 55 percent to 35 percent margin think it is more important for illegal immigrants to be able to live legally in the country without the threat of deportation than it is to obtain a pathway to citizenship. 

Asian Americans believe the same by a 49 percent to 44 percent margin. 

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Both groups make up some of the fastest growing demographics in the country and account for the majority of immigrants living in the country illegally. 

While large majorities of both groups support creating a pathway to citizenship — 89 percent of Hispanics and 72 percent of Asian Americans — they believe relief from deportation is a more important issue. 

The comprehensive immigration reform bill passed out of the Senate, which includes a pathway to citizenship, has stalled in the Republican-led House. And some Democrats have called on the Obama administration to use its authority to prioritize deportations. 

In 2012, the Obama administration announced it would halt the deportation of students brought to the country illegally as children, if they enrolled in college or joined the military. 

Lawmakers such as Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) and activists have urged Obama to go even further by halting all deportations of illegal immigrants. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also recently criticized some “totally unjustified” deportations. 

The White House has maintained that enforcement authority alone cannot fix the immigration system and has pushed instead for legislative reforms.

If immigration reform ultimately dies in the House, 43 percent of Hispanics would blame Republicans while 34 percent would blame President Obama and Democrats.  

Forty-eight percent of Asian Americans would blame Republicans, while 29 percent would blame Democrats. 

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has ruled out bringing a large immigration bill to the floor, but he has said a piecemeal approach in the House is not dead. 

Of five domestic priorities, both demographics rated immigration at the bottom of the list — behind the economy, education, healthcare and the federal budget. 

Only 32 percent of Hispanics rated the issue as extremely important, while 17 percent of Asian Americans said the same. 

Majorities of both demographics continue to give Obama high approval ratings. Fifty-four percent of Hispanics approve of him, while 62 percent of Asian Americans approve. Other polling has found Hispanic support has waned steeply since Obama’s reelection in 2012. 

Large majorities of both demographics also support other parts of comprehensive immigration reform — including increased border enforcement and more work visas for high skilled workers and those in the agriculture industry. 

Both demographics believe granting legal status to illegal immigrants would strengthen the economy and improve lives, but majorities also believe it would lead to more people coming to the United States illegally and would be rewarding bad behavior. 

The polls were conducted among 701 Hispanics and 802 Asian Americans earlier this year and contain a 4.4 percentage point and 5 percentage point margin of error, respectively.

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