Poll finds broad support for path to citizenship for DACA recipients

Poll finds broad support for path to citizenship for DACA recipients
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A strong majority of voters — including most Republicans — support a pathway to citizenship for "Dreamers," immigrants brought into the country illegally as children, a new poll finds.

The latest Harvard CAPS-Harris survey found that 76 percent of voters say that those who were eligible for protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program should be given a pathway to U.S. citizenship. That figure includes 63 percent of Republicans.

Those numbers are almost identical when voters are asked if DACA recipients should be given work permits, with 77 percent saying yes and only 23 percent saying they should be denied work permits.

The Supreme Court on Monday said it would not hear the Trump administration's challenge to a lower court ruling that temporarily blocks it from winding down the Obama-era DACA program.

The Trump administration has argued that DACA is illegal, although the president has expressed hope that Congress will address the issue through legislation. 

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Trump set a March 5 deadline for Congress to act, but lawmakers have been unable to come to an agreement. The president is seeking money for a wall along the Southern border and changes to other immigration programs in exchange for a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.

Trump and many Republicans have talked about implementing a merit-based, rather than family-based, immigration system, and the Harvard CAPS-Harris survey found that 84 percent of voters say that U.S. immigration policy should prioritize a person’s ability to contribute to society over whether the potential immigrant has relatives in the U.S.

That sentiment even extends to DACA recipients, with 60 percent saying that the relatives of those brought here illegally at a young age should not be given preference just because they have family here.

Trump has also railed against the visa lottery system, which aims to promote diversity by allowing people from countries with low immigration rates to the U.S. to enter a lottery and potentially be one of 50,000 selected for a green card. Seventy percent of those surveyed say they oppose the lottery system.

And 79 percent say that secure borders are preferable to open borders, with 62 percent saying that current border security is inadequate.

“The public fully supports DACA recipients and path to citizenship but also want the border tightened and immigration generally controlled, rather than open, and based primarily on merit,” said Harvard CAPS-Harris co-director Mark Penn. 

There is broad support for Congress to act on a bipartisan and comprehensive immigration bill.

Sixty-three percent said they would support either work permits or a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients in exchange for increasing merit-based immigration, eliminating the visa lottery and funding “barrier security” along the Southern border. 

Sixty-one percent said Congress should pass a bill that addresses both the DACA program and border security, rather than individual bills that address those matters piecemeal.

“The question is whether Congress is gong to listen to the public or the extremes,” Penn said. “The public essentially agrees with the four-part Trump framework as a way to move forward here. Trump’s rating on immigration policy are still below 50 but have improved, suggesting he is getting through on the issue.”

Forty-seven percent say they approve of the job Trump is doing on immigration.

The Harvard CAPS-Harris online survey of 1,934 registered voters was conducted between Feb. 16-19. The partisan breakdown is 37 percent Democrat, 32 percent Republican, 29 percent independent and 4 percent other.

The Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll survey is a collaboration of the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University and The Harris Poll. The Hill will be working with Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll throughout 2018. 



The Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll survey is an online sample drawn from the Harris panel and weighted to reflect known demographics. As a representative online sample, it does not report a probability confidence interval.