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Border security before legal status a crucible in immigration debate

June 24, 2013 at 11:56 AM
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WASHINGTON, June 24 (UPI) -- Americans say they back legal status for illegal immigrants and border security but are divided on whether security should come first, a Pew poll indicated.

The national survey by the Pew Research Center and USA Today, released Sunday, found 43 percent say people in the United States illegally should be allowed to seek legal status only after effective border control is established while 49 percent say undocumented immigrants can seek legal status as border security improvements are being made.

Republicans and Democrats are on opposite sides of the issue, with 60 percent of Democrats saying they thought border security improvements and applications for legal status could happen at the same time while 56 percent of Republicans say the borders must be controlled effectively first, the survey said.

Pew said broad disagreement in both parties between their extreme wings and other, more centrist members are wide.

Fifty-six percent said undocumented immigrants should have to pay fines before gaining legal status while 55 percent said they back a 10-year waiting period for most immigrants.

Seventy-six percent say undocumented immigrants should have to demonstrate they can speak and understand English before being allowed to stay in the United States legally.

The survey found 77 percent agree deporting all undocumented immigrants would be unrealistic.

Seventy-five percent said they agree it would be "better for the economy for undocumented immigrants to gain legal status and become legal workers."

Fifty-one percent said "granting undocumented immigrants legal status would take jobs from U.S. citizens."

Results are based on nationwide telephone interviews with 1,512 adults conducted June 12-16. The margin of error is 2.9 percentage points.

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