Establishing a way for most unauthorized immigrants to stay in the country legally is the top immigration policy goal for Hispanics in the United States, with more than half (54%) saying it is very important, according to a national Pew Research Center survey of Hispanic adults conducted in December. While a significant partisan gap exists on this issue, strong majorities of Hispanic Democrats and Republicans say this immigration policy goal is at least somewhat important.
Many of the nation’s 60 million Hispanics have immigrant connections. About 20 million are immigrants themselves (though 79% are U.S. citizens), and another 19 million have at least one parent who is an immigrant. As of 2017, Hispanics accounted for 73% of an estimated 10.5 million unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S., and a growing number of them came from Central America over the previous decade.
For this analysis we surveyed 3,030 U.S. Hispanic adults in December 2019. This includes 2,094 Hispanic adults who were members of Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. It also includes an oversample of 936 respondents sampled from Ipsos’ KnowledgePanel, another online survey panel also recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. Recruiting panelists by phone or mail ensures that nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. This gives us confidence that any sample can represent the whole population (see our Methods 101 explainer on random sampling), or in this case the whole U.S. Hispanic population.
To further ensure that this survey reflects a balanced cross-section of the nation’s Hispanic adults, the data is weighted to match the U.S. Hispanic adult population by gender, nativity, Hispanic origin group, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology.
Overall, 83% of Hispanics say it is a very or somewhat important U.S. immigration policy goal to establish a way for most immigrants in the country illegally to stay in the U.S., according to the survey. By comparison, 67% of the U.S. public said this was an important goal in a separate survey conducted in September 2019.
Majorities of Latinos also rate other immigration policies as important. When asked about refugees, 79% of Latinos say it’s very or somewhat important to take in civilian refugees escaping violence and war, and a comparable share (76%) say improving the security of the country’s borders is very or somewhat important. Two-thirds of Latinos (66%) say increasing security along the U.S.-Mexico border to reduce illegal crossings is a very or somewhat important goal. Apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border increased markedly in 2019.
Fewer than half of Latinos (41%) say increasing deportations of immigrants in the country illegally is an important policy goal. Just 35% of Hispanic immigrants say this, compared with about half of U.S.-born Hispanics (48%). Immigrants and the U.S. born rate the other immigration policy goals in the survey similarly.
Views of immigration policy goals by political party
Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly two-to-one among Latinos: 59% identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, while 30% affiliate with or lean to the Republican Party. These two groups have different immigration policy priorities.
For Hispanic Democrats, the highest-rated immigration policy goals are establishing a path for unauthorized immigrants to stay in the U.S. legally (89%), taking in refugees (85%) and improving the security of the country’s borders (72%).
Hispanic Republicans place a higher priority than Hispanic Democrats on border security issues. Their most important immigration policy goals are improving border security (86%), increasing security along the U.S.-Mexico border to reduce illegal crossings (81%) and establishing a path for most unauthorized immigrants to stay in the U.S. legally (71%).
Views diverge most on the question of increased deportations. Only about a third of Hispanic Democrats (32%) say increasing deportations of immigrants currently in the country illegally is a very or somewhat important goal. Nearly twice as many Hispanic Republicans (63%) say this. The 31 percentage point gap on deportations is the widest partisan difference of any immigration policy issue among Hispanics, though it is less pronounced than it is among the broader U.S. public.
Among Hispanics, partisan differences extend only so far. Majorities of Hispanic Democrats and Republicans say establishing a path to legal residence, taking in refugees, improving border security and increasing U.S.-Mexico border security are very or somewhat important U.S. immigration policy goals. But there are differences in the level of importance that Hispanic Democrats and Republicans ascribe to various policy goals. For example, nearly two-thirds of Hispanic Democrats (63%) say establishing a path to legal residence is very important, compared with just 36% of Hispanic Republicans. Roughly comparable shares of Hispanic Democrats (26%) and Republicans (35%) say this goal is somewhat important.
More than eight-in-ten Hispanics (86%) favor Congress passing a law granting permanent legal status to immigrants who came illegally to the U.S. as children. This comes as the U.S. Supreme Court evaluates the Trump administration’s decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that has protected about 800,000 unauthorized immigrants who came to the U.S. as children – most of them from Mexico.
Hispanic Democrats (92%) and Republicans (77%) both broadly support Congress creating a path to legal status for immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children.
Hispanic views of asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border
As the number of asylum seekers from Central America and elsewhere has surged at the U.S.-Mexico border, Hispanics are broadly critical of the federal government’s response. Around six-in-ten Hispanics (63%) say the U.S. government has done a somewhat (36%) or very bad (26%) job at dealing with the increased number of people seeking asylum at the nation’s southern border. But views on this question break sharply along party lines. Three-in-four Democrats (75%) say the U.S. government has done a bad job, while about half of Republicans (55%) say the government has done a good job.
At the same time, most Hispanics (56%) say the U.S. does not have a responsibility to take in asylum seekers from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. About 39% say the U.S. does have this responsibility.
Fewer than half of Hispanics (44%) say they have heard a lot about the increase in asylum seekers at the border.