In a bipartisan meeting with congressional leaders on Tuesday, President Donald Trump seemed open to supporting a broad immigration deal that could establish a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. He also seemed willing to extend protection to immigrants brought into the U.S. as children, although he said that the construction of a border wall with Mexico must be part of any deal to extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).
During his presidential campaign, Trump advocated for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, deporting immigrants living in the U.S. illegally and generally decreasing the number of immigrants accepted into the U.S.
Public Opinion Context
A clear majority of Americans (84%) favored a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living in the U.S. illegally the last time Gallup asked about the issue in 2016. Support for a pathway to citizenship was strong among Americans affiliated with both major political parties, with 76% of Republicans and 91% of Democrats saying they supported such a proposal.
Support for a wall along the border between the U.S. and Mexico is low among Americans. Slightly over a third (36%) of Americans said they favored the construction of a wall in a March 2017 Gallup poll.
When asked about immigration more broadly, not illegal immigration per se, Americans were split in 2017, with 38% saying immigration should remain at its current level and 35% favoring a decrease. Another 24% said they want immigration to the U.S. increased.
The percentage of Republicans endorsing a decrease in immigration fell to 48% in 2017, down from 60% the previous year.
Americans have a generally positive view of the effect that immigration has on the U.S economy. About half of Americans (49%) said immigrants have a positive impact on the country's economy in a June 2017 Gallup poll, the highest level since the question was first asked in 1993. Alternatively, 40% thought immigrants hurt the economy, by virtue of providing low-cost labor.
In the same poll, employed Americans were likelier to say immigration has had a positive than negative effect on their own job, as well as on the company they work for. However, the vast majority said it has had no effect on either facet of their work.
Trump's hard-line stance on immigration during his campaign appealed to his political base and may have been one of the key factors in his victory. Suggesting that he would support a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living in the U.S. illegally is likely to cost him politically among his supporters -- a fact that Trump acknowledged, saying he would "take the heat" for the potential deal. However, providing these immigrants with a pathway to citizenship would likely prove popular among Americans in general.
Gallup has not asked Americans about providing protection to those who came to the U.S. illegally as children, often called Dreamers. But given that a supermajority of Americans favor a much broader proposal to provide a path to citizenship for all immigrants living in the U.S., support is likely to be as strong or stronger for the Dreamers.