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Americans divided on rise in number of deportations

by Kjerstin Wood
Feb 27, 2014


Courtesy Pew Research Center

Pew Research Center survey results show a divided public opinion on the recent rise in deportation rates.


Courtesy Pew Research Center

Pew Research Center shows a steep rise in number of deportations over the last two decades.

A new survey shows public opinion about the high number of deportations of undocumented immigrants is split almost down the middle.

The Pew Research Center released “Public Divided Over Increased Deportation of Unauthorized Immigrants” Thursday morning. The survey results show that 73 percent of respondents support a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants, but an even split on deportations. Deportations now top more than 400,000 a year, according to the study.

Forty-five percent of the respondents in the national survey said that increased deportations were a good thing, 45 percent said they were bad and 9 percent had no opinion.
Among Republicans, 55 percent favored the increased deportations, while just 37 percent of Democrats surveyed did.

“I’m not surprised that there would be a divided view,” said Silky Shah, the interim executive director of Detention Watch Network, which fights injustices and for change within the immigration system. The overall misunderstanding and misrepresentation of detainment and deportation could lead to confusion on the issue, she said.

“There isn’t enough education to understand what [deportation and detainment] really means and why people end up in that process,” Shah said.

“Americans are not thinking or being taught the role of deportation in a country’s immigration system,” said Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, an organization that favors lower immigration levels. “Yes, there needs to be more education.”

“No poll tells you everything,” Beck said. “But these results showed a remarkable degree of interest in higher numbers of deportations.”

But both NumbersUSA and the Federation for American Immigration Reform question the overall validity of the survey, because they dispute the fact that deportation numbers are up under the Obama Administration.

“The Pew Hispanic Center does great work and they are highly respected, However the results of the poll are kind of disingenuous because the numbers are not factual,” said Kristen Williamson, press secretary for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates for stronger border security and immigration reform.

“It’s enlightening that, despite misrepresenting the numbers and level of enforcement, 45 percent responded that increased deportations are a good thing,” Williamson said. “Whether the [deportation] numbers are true or not, that could be a positive result for those who support higher levels of enforcement.”

Throughout the years, as immigration regulation has become stricter, the politicized language surrounding immigration reform impacts the public perception.

“Understanding that since [the immigration law of] 1996, post Sep. 11, [2011], and now under Obama we’ve had almost a police state when it comes to addressing immigration,” Shah said. “The rhetoric around the actions from the Obama administration and previous administrations has lent itself to the belief that people should be deported.”

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights did not respond to several requests for comment.