America’s attitudes towards immigrants had begun shifting positively early this year, but have taken a turn amidst a wave of unaccompanied minors crossing the United States’ southern border. Over 50,000 unaccompanied youth have crossed the border into the U.S. illegally over the past nine months, often fleeing violence and poverty in Central American countries. And the majority of American adults are in favor of accelerating the children’s deportations, even if that means removing children that may be eligible for asylum, according to a new study.
Around 53 percent of American adults want the government to speed up the process of removing children who illegally enter the country, regardless of whether they qualify for asylum, according to a new Pew Research Center report. Only 38 percent support the current policy, which allows children to stay in the U.S. with designated guardians while they await legal hearings.
In response to the border crossings, President Obama has declared the influx a humanitarian crisis and has proposed legislation that would accelerate the removal process for immigrant kids. Yet only 28 percent of the public agrees with Obama’s handling of the issue, while about 56 percent disapprove, per Pew.
The situation has taken a toll on how Americans view immigration as a whole. Back in February, 73 percent of Americans, including 64 percent of Republicans, supported a pathway to citizenship. Now, 68 percent of Americans, and about 54 percent of Republicans, support providing legal status to those who entered the country illegally. There’s been a slight drop among Democrats, too — about 81 percent of Democrats favored a path to citizenship in February, while now that’s down to 77 percent.
Deborah Lauter, the Anti-Defamation League’s civil rights director, says there’s also been a rise in anti-immigrant rhetoric during the the border crisis.
“We’re definitely seeing a large uptick in anti-immigrant rhetoric since children have been coming in from Central America,” Lauter says. “This humanitarian crisis is really providing fodder for it.”
Pew’s study was conducted between July 8 and 14 and surveyed 1,805 American adults.