Voters like the idea of making legal immigrants pay their own way, and they are also keen on letting people sue sanctuary cities for crimes committed by illegal immigrants — both parts of President Trump’s immigration agenda — according to surprising polling numbers from Harvard University.
Nearly four in five voters like the idea of an “immigration halt” with the coronavirus becoming a pandemic.
Less popular is the move by a number of Democrat-led states such as New York to issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Only about one-third of voters polled said people in the country without authorization should be allowed to apply for a license.
The results of the Harvard Center for American Political Studies/Harris Poll suggest that Mr. Trump’s immigration policies have strong backing among the public at large, even though they are derided as racist or unfair in Washington and among Democratic leaders.
“This should definitely be a warning, especially to Biden because he’s going to be the nominee, that going too far left is a real danger for him,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director at the Center for Immigration Studies. “I’m not even sure what he was thinking last night. He’s got the nomination. Why cater to the most radical anti-borders elements in his party?”
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, in a debate Sunday with Sen. Bernard Sanders, his chief opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination, proposed shutting down all deportations for 100 days and then deporting only illegal immigrants with further felonies on their records.
He also said he will cancel immigration detention for people awaiting court hearings if he wins the White House.
He flatly said local police should not cooperate in turning over illegal immigrants to federal immigration authorities.
“Xenophobia is a disease,” said Mr. Biden, condemning what he called “this demonization and divisiveness coming from the Trump administration on immigration.”
The Harvard/Harris poll found immigration policy to be the second most important issue for voters, behind health care and ahead of terrorism and national security.
When it comes to Mr. Trump, 49% said they approved of the president’s handling of immigration. That is at the high range of the past few years, with Harvard/Harris showing approval hovering between 44% and 49%.
During his State of the Union address this year, Mr. Trump called for punishing sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with federal officials by allowing people victimized by illegal immigrants to sue the sanctuaries for damages.
That idea earns 55% support, according to Harvard/Harris, though the pollsters asked the question without mentioning that Mr. Trump supports it.
The same was true with a question on whether the government should deny green cards to immigrants who are likely to end up on the public dole. The Trump administration this year implemented a rule to do just that, and the Harvard/Harris poll said 60% support it — again, without Mr. Trump’s name attached to it.
Immigrant rights activists have labeled that policy racist. They say it will hinder poor migrants from developing nations in Africa trying to achieve the American dream and reward those from richer nations in Europe.
Mr. Krikorian said asking without the president’s name meant the pollsters were able to find Americans’ views without any Trump bias.
He said there are probably people who would be hawkish on immigration, such as opposing sanctuary cities, though they dislike Mr. Trump. If told the president backed a crackdown, they might have a different answer to the polling question.
“Because Trump’s name isn’t on there, people were giving answers based on what they actually thought policy should be rather than what is associated with the president,” he said.
The Washington Times reached out to several immigrant rights activists about the numbers. They either didn’t respond or declined to tackle the questions.
Mr. Trump has tied immigration to the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis, and the polling suggests Americans agree. A stunning 79% told the pollsters that an “immigration halt” should be imposed if the outbreak grows into a pandemic.
On the other side of the ledger, voters resoundingly rejected the idea of issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, with 65% opposed and just 35% in favor.
Immigration activists argue that illegal immigrants are on the roads anyway, and it makes more sense to license them and require them to have insurance. Fourteen states plus the District of Columbia have moved to grant licenses to those in the country without authorization, according to the National Council of State Legislatures.
New York became the latest to offer licenses in December with its Green Light law. New Jersey will become the 15th state when its law takes effect in June.
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