New poll shows majority of Americans care more about prioritizing the safety of children at the border than increased security

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Erin Snodgrass
·3 min read
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In this March 27, 2019, file photo, Central American migrants wait for food in a pen erected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to process a surge of migrant families and unaccompanied minors in El Paso, Texas. AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio, File
  • A new poll offers insight into the American public's perception of immigration and the border.

  • The findings suggest that immigration may be a weak point for the Biden administration so far.

  • Americans say the highest priority needs to be reuniting parents and children separated at the border.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

A new immigration poll published Monday offers insight into the American public's perception of the current border situation as the Biden administration continues to grapple with near record high numbers of unaccompanied minors crossing into the country.

The poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research suggests immigration is a weak point so far for President Joe Biden, as more Americans disapprove than approve of how the president is handling the increasing number of unaccompanied arrivals at the US-Mexico border.

The public's opinion on Biden's handling of immigration thus far falls short of other top issues, including his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the economy, according to The Associated Press. The poll found less than half - just 42% - approve of Biden's management of immigration in general while 44% approve of how he's handling border security. Those percentages are significantly lower than the 61% of Americans who say they approve of how the new president is handling his job overall.

Republicans and independents are much more critical of Biden's immigration approach than Democrats, the poll shows. Only 8% and 11% of Republicans and independents respectively said they strongly or somewhat approved of Biden's handling of unaccompanied minors compared to 44% of Democrats.

Despite the expected partisan divide, the poll also reveals the public's opinion on more nuanced policy specifics.

The two immigration issues respondents say should be the highest priority for the federal government are reuniting children and parents who were separated at the border and providing safe treatment of unaccompanied minors at the border. Sixty-five and 59% of Americans respectively marked the issues as high priority, while about half said increased security at the border should be a high priority.

Other issues Americans said were of less importance include providing a way for immigrants living in the US to stay legally, deporting immigrants illegally living in the US, penalizing companies that hire immigrants living in the US illegally, expanding programs that give temporary work visas, and allowing refugees to come to the US escaping violence.

Though the poll suggests providing a pathway to citizenship for those in the US illegally is not high on the list of American's immigration priorities, Biden's ambitious overhaul of the country's immigration system proposed earlier this year would do exactly that - creating an opportunity to gain citizenship for an estimated 11 million people.

The poll found that differences in Americans' opinions on immigration also fall across racial and ethnic groups. According to the AP, 92% of Black Americans and 67% of Hispanics say they approve of how Biden is handling his job overall, compared to 52% of white Americans. But when it comes to immigration, 74% of Black Americans and 50% of Hispanics say they approve of Biden's handling, while only 34% of white Americans do.

Despite a growing narrative that the situation at the border has become a crisis, Americans are less concerned that immigration poses a direct threat to the US than a litany of other possible dangers. The spread of infectious diseases, extremist militant groups, China's influence around the world, climate change, Iran's nuclear deal, and North Korea's nuclear problem all ranked higher than illegal immigration as direct threats to the country.

According to the AP, the AP-NORC poll was conducted between March 26 and 29 using a sample of 1,166 adults designed to be representative of the US population.

Read the original article on Insider