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NPR/Ipsos Poll: Americans Concerned About Migrants At U.S.-Mexico Border


Americans of all political stripes say they are concerned about the rising number of migrants apprehended after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, also about the treatment of migrant children who've been taken into U.S. custody. These are the findings of a new NPR/Ipsos poll. At the same time, the poll found bipartisan support for creating a pathway to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants already in the country. NPR's Joel Rose covers immigration. He's here now. Hey, Joel.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.

KELLY: All right. What else did the poll find that people have to say about the border?

ROSE: Well, we found broad bipartisan agreement that there is a problem there. And most said it's a major problem. The number of migrants apprehended after crossing the border in recent months is the highest it's been in 20 years. I talked to one poll respondent named Paulette Buckner. She's a Republican-leaning independent from Montana. And I asked her to grade the Biden administration's handling of the situation.

PAULETTE BUCKNER: Is there anything lower than an F? We're the only country in the world that has no borders right now. It's a disaster, and Biden caused it.

ROSE: Biden has been on the defensive. He has urged migrants not to make the dangerous trek north. And the administration is still turning away most migrants because of the pandemic. But as we've reported, they're also expanding efforts to identify the most vulnerable migrants and allowing them into the U.S. to ask for asylum.

KELLY: And staying with what Americans think about this and what Americans want to see happen, what do they want to see happen according to this poll?

ROSE: Well, there's been a lot of focus on the unaccompanied children and teenagers crossing the border, more than 35,000 since March. The administration has been scrambling to get them out of crowded Border Patrol facilities, and Americans did not like seeing that. Our poll found that three-fourths are concerned about ensuring proper care for those migrant kids in U.S. custody. And as for the overall immigration system, we also found bipartisan support for some significant changes. Here's Mallory Newall from Ipsos, which conducted the poll.

MALLORY NEWALL: We see support for allowing law-abiding migrants to, you know, become citizens under specific circumstances and also reforms to ensure better treatment of those at the border, particularly children.

KELLY: Joel, let's widen this out a little bit. President Biden came into office a few months ago now, proposing a really ambitious immigration overhaul. What kind of grade would he get so far on that effort?

ROSE: Well, that's right. Biden introduced a sweeping bill in January that would create a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. if they meet certain qualifications. And since then, the conventional wisdom in Washington has been that Biden's agenda has been largely derailed by the situation at the border. And our poll found that Biden's big proposal does not get majority support.

But there is bipartisan support for creating a legal pathway for certain immigrants - farm workers and essential workers, for example, also DREAMers who were brought to the country illegally as children. Those ideas are popular with the majority of Republicans and more than 80% of Democrats, including Jeffrey Charles of Newark, N.J., whose parents both immigrated to the U.S. from Haiti.

JEFFREY CHARLES: Immigrants are very hard-working. They come here with the energy and the mindset to work. So I think America takes advantage of that because they know that these people are hard workers, and they need them.

KELLY: Joel, just briefly, what are we watching for next in terms of policy changes, in terms of legislation?

ROSE: Well, Biden has signaled that he's open to working on just the parts of his immigration proposal that are the most popular. But Republicans are not rushing to do that. They say the administration needs to do more to stem the flow of migrants at the border first.

And another factor here is former President Trump, who still holds a lot of sway in the GOP. Our poll shows that the majority of Republicans still very much agree with his hard-line policies, including the border wall.

KELLY: All right. That is NPR's Joel Rose. Thank you, Joel.

ROSE: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joel Rose is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers immigration and breaking news.