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Gallup Vault
Gallup Vault: Opposition to Illegal Immigrant Resident Status
Gallup Vault

Gallup Vault: Opposition to Illegal Immigrant Resident Status

by Art Swift

In 1977, President Jimmy Carter proposed granting permanent resident status to all "undocumented aliens" who both entered the U.S. illegally at least seven years earlier and applied with the Immigration and Naturalization Service for that status. Shortly thereafter, Gallup found 52% of Americans opposed to the idea and 39% in favor.

Americans' Views on Immigrants Living Illegally in the U.S.
It has been proposed that illegal aliens who have been in the United States for seven years be allowed to remain in the United States. Do you favor or oppose this proposal?
  Favor Oppose
  % %
September 1977 39 52
November 1980 37 52
October 1983 41 52

Carter submitted a comprehensive legislative proposal to Congress in August 1977 that included sanctions on employers who hire workers residing in the country illegally and stipulated that those entering the country before 1970 should have a path to permanent living status in the U.S. The plan did not become law, however, and Gallup repeated the question two more times. In November 1980, an identical percentage (52%) opposed resident status for people who had entered the U.S. illegally seven years before, while 37% were in favor. And three years later, 52% still opposed it while 41% favored it.

In the 1977 Gallup survey, 72% said they were in favor of a law to make it illegal to employ a person entering the U.S. "without proper papers." And 65% were in favor of requiring all people in the U.S. to carry a national ID card "to distinguish illegal aliens from legal job-seekers."

In analyzing this data, George Gallup noted that controversy about immigration from Latin America was likely to mount in the years ahead. Citing the results of a recent global survey, he noted that "one person in five in Latin America … would like to emigrate to another country. The United States is their favorite nation as a future home." He added, "One-third of all Mexicans included in the survey said they would like to leave Mexico, and they too prefer the U.S. over other nations." The "desire to migrate," according to Gallup's World Poll data, has been about 20% in Mexico for the past several years, but the U.S. remains the most desired destination for these potential migrants.

Read the original Gallup poll release.

These data can be found in Gallup Analytics.

Read more from the Gallup Vault.

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