Coronavirus and Inequality

Published — March 20, 2020

Trump still scares undocumented during COVID-19 crisis. Most Americans favor legalizing them.

An attendee at the House Homeland Security Committee field hearing at Tougaloo College in Jackson, Miss., holds a sign written in English and Spanish, stating "Let US work." (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Center for Public Integrity/Ipsos poll indicates immigration reform sentiment remains strong.


Despite years of President Donald Trump bashing undocumented immigrants and a global coronavirus crisis, a Center for Public Integrity/Ipsos poll found that Americans’ support for a path to citizenship for undocumented people remains uniformly strong.

More than two-thirds of Americans — 69 percent — say they support a path, with conditions, to earn legal residency and eventual citizenship. A majority of those identifying as Republicans back a path to permanent legal status, a portion that has not changed appreciably since Trump became president.

The Public Integrity/Ipsos poll found broad support among Americans, regardless of party affiliation, income levels and where they live.

And it comes at a time when the Trump administration, in response to COVID-19, is considering tightening border controls even more by turning back migrants at the southern border who are trying to pursue asylum claims filed in the United States. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is also temporarily postponing arrests of undocumented immigrants inside the United States unless ICE agents identify someone as a public safety risk.

The Public Integrity/Ipsos poll findings are similar to immigration policy polls conducted over more than a dozen years. Two polls, one in 2007 and another in 2013, found nearly two-thirds of Americans supported a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants under certain conditions.

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Only Congress has the power to create a path for the undocumented to legal permanent status, a prerequisite to apply for citizenship. Most can’t find a way to legalize under the current immigration system. Begin scrolling for more Public Integrity/Ipsos poll findings, which include surprising results from those polled in the South, Midwest and rural areas nationwide. 

Ipsos asked respondents how much they support a policy to “Create an opportunity for undocumented immigrants here for more than 10 years to earn legal residency, and an opportunity to apply for citizenship, if they pay a fine, show work history and that they’ve paid taxes or will pay them.”

The results?

Approval across party lines

Most polled said they strongly or somewhat approved of a path to legal status for the undocumented based on these conditions. That was true across party lines.

No difference by region

Politicians in the South and Midwest have reputations for having anti-citizenship or legal residency stances for undocumented people. But when asked the question, most polled in those two regions were in favor of opening a path to legal status for the undocumented. Surprisingly, a large portion of Southerners were in favor, and the Midwest was even slightly higher than the Northeast.

No urban-rural divide

Rural Americans, too, are considered more pro-Trump, and are often opposed to legalization of undocumented people. But when it comes to creating a conditional path to legal status and eventual citizenship for the undocumented, most rural respondents approved of the policy, nearly matching the support in urban areas.

Support from working class

Trump accuses undocumented workers of taking away jobs from working-class Americans. But most low- to middle-income households expressed strong support for a path to legal status, with conditions described in the question.

The ‘forgotten’ also approve

Trump appeals often to voters without college degrees who feel “forgotten.” But a large majority of those polled with no college degree favored a conditional path to legal status for the undocumented.

And the jobless approve, too

Even most of those polled who identified themselves as “not employed” favored a conditional path to legal status for the undocumented, just slightly less than those working in full-time jobs.

Age doesn’t matter

From young to old, opinions weren’t that different among those polled. A strong majority favored a policy that would open a path so undocumented people could earn legal status.

Read more in Health

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