Protesters line the overpass during a protest against people who immigrate illegally, on July 19, 2014, in Conroe, Texas. / Jason Fochtman, AP
Americans have become more focused on securing the border and less interested in providing legal standing to undocumented immigrants living in the USA, according to a poll released Wednesday.
In the wake of news reports about tens of thousands of Central American children rushing across the nation's southwestern border, a new Pew Research Center survey found that 33% of Americans want to focus on border security, 23% prefer a pathway to citizenship, and 41% want both.
Last year, as Congress debated an immigration bill that would have allowed many of the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants to become citizens, Pew estimated that 25% of Americans wanted the government to focus on granting citizenship, 25% wanted more focus on enhanced enforcement, and the rest felt both should be given equal priority.
The latest national survey by Pew of 1,501 adults was conducted Aug. 20-24 and has a margin of error of +/-2.9%.
The shift in views spans political leanings, as more Republicans, Democrats and independents favor focusing on border security.
Roy Beck, executive director of NumbersUSA, a group that advocates for lower levels of legal and illegal immigration, said the new numbers show how a desire for more immigration enforcement is no longer just a conservative idea but one that more Americans are embracing. He said news videos documenting the rush of Central American children across the border was a visual wake-up call.
"It showed Americans that the concerns that have been stated about enticing an uncontrolled flow at the border were no longer theoretical, they were actual," Beck said. "That has had a profound effect on people's thinking."
Supporters of plans to legalize undocumented immigrants say the poll reflects the inability of Congress and the White House to explain the real reasons behind the surge of children across the border, such as violence in their home countries and flaws in America's legal immigration system.
Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, said the surge shows that the immigration system is broken and in need of updates to allow more foreign workers into the country legally, which will help solve the border security problem.
"Congress and the administration failed to explain what was happening, and opponents exploited that issue as a border security flaw," Noorani said. "At some point, members of Congress and the president have to explain that smart immigration reform depends on both a functioning immigration system and a functioning border. Right now, we have neither."
In a separate report released Wednesday, Pew found that the number of undocumented immigrants living in the country remained at about 11.3 million in 2013, marking the fifth straight year that the estimate has remained stable.
The number had increased steadily for two decades, from 3.5 million in 1990 to 11.3 million in 2009.
The findings show that fewer undocumented immigrants are coming to the U.S., but those who have come are settling in. The median time that adult undocumented immigrants have been in the U.S. is now nearly 13 years.
The number of undocumented immigrants could be a critical statistic as President Obama considers expanding the pool of those protected from deportation.
In 2012, he created a program that has allowed more than 550,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children to avoid deportation proceedings for two years. Now Obama is considering expanding that program to their parents, relatives or those who have been in the country for long periods of time.
Pew's report found that about 21% of undocumented immigrants have lived in the country for more than 20 years and 62% have been in the USA for more than 10 years.
"A shrinking share have been in the country for less than five years," the report found. "A rising share have lived int he U.S. for a decade or more."
Read the original story: Americans increasingly want border secured