By John McCormick
Sept. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Americans increasingly want tighter border security and tougher immigration enforcement, bolstering the Republican position as President Barack Obama considers executive action on the issue.
One-third say stricter controls should be the priority for U.S. policy, up from 25 percent who held that view in February 2013, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center.
Efforts to revise immigration laws remain stalled in Congress, with Republicans stressing border control and Democrats pushing to ease deportations. The White House has said Obama may delay executive action to change the U.S. policy until after November’s congressional elections, for fear of hurting Democratic candidates.
“Among whites, there is much more support for improving border security and enforcing immigration laws more strictly,” the report released yesterday by the Washington-based Pew says. The proportion of whites who place the highest priority on border control is 37 percent, double that of Hispanics.
The harder-line position comes even as a separate report by Pew showed no growth in the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. over the last four years.
Pew’s poll, conducted Aug. 20-24 of 1,501 adults, offered a choice of whether border security and law enforcement should be given priority over creating a way for undocumented immigrants to become citizens if they meet certain conditions.
Almost a quarter -- 23 percent -- said they give greater importance to offering a path to citizenship. About four-in-10 - - a plurality -- said both should be given equal priority.
A flood of unaccompanied and undocumented children, mostly from Central America, trying to enter the U.S. has ignited passions on the issue.
By a margin of 53 percent to 36 percent, more Republicans say the emphasis should be on better border security and stricter enforcement.
Among independents, 41 percent support giving equal priority to a path to citizenship and better border security, while 33 percent back greater border security and tougher law enforcement, up from 25 percent in February 2013.
Even the share of Democrats saying the priority should be on taking a harder line increased to 19 percent from 14 percent. Forty-five percent give equal priority to both a path to citizenship and enhanced security and enforcement, down from 52 percent at the beginning of last year.
The Pew report, also released yesterday, offered Washington politicians leery of dealing with immigration some rationale for their inaction. It showed that the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. has stabilized since the end of the recession and shows no signs of rising.
There were 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. in March 2013, Pew estimates, the same as in 2009.
“The marked slowdown in new arrivals means that those who remain are more likely to be long-term residents, and to live with their U.S.-born children,” the report says.
The analysis underscores the central role economic conditions play in the flow of immigrants. When times are good, more of them arrive in the U.S.
The number of undocumented immigrants rose briskly for decades before plunging during the 2007-2009 recession. As growth has stalled, there’s also been a rise in the median length of time that unauthorized immigrants have lived in the U.S., going from less than eight years in 2003 to almost 13 years in 2013.