Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

How Americans View the Situation at the U.S.-Mexico Border, Its Causes and Consequences

4. In their own words: Americans’ concerns, feelings about U.S.-Mexico border situation

When asked in an open-ended question about their top concerns regarding the large number of migrants seeking to enter the U.S. at the border with Mexico, the most commonly cited concerns relate either to the economic costs and burdens associated with the migration surge or concerns about security (22% of concerns fall into each of these categories).

About one-in-ten adults (11%) express concern for migrants’ safety and treatment. Smaller shares raise other concerns.

Chart shows Americans commonly cite economic, security concerns over situation at U.S. border with Mexico
Economic burdens
  • Those that express economic concerns mainly mention strains on health care services and welfare. Some also point to the unfair impact on American taxpayers.
  • 3% offer that they are concerned about migrants taking jobs from Americans.
Security concerns
  • 10% say they are concerned about increasing crime rates, while an identical share mention the possibility of criminals or terrorists entering the country due to insufficient vetting.
Migrant safety, treatment
  • Among the 11% of adults who say migrants’ treatment is their top concern, 3% each cite poor conditions for those arriving at the U.S. border or concern for their safety . And 1% mention migrants’ general well-being.
Other major concerns
  • Other concerns mentioned by Americans included logistical concerns about where to house migrants (5%) and belief that migrants are abusing the system (5%).
  • 4% remark that the sheer volume of migrants attempting to enter the U.S. is a major concern, while 5% offer more broadly that the immigration and asylum systems are broken.

Partisans differ in their concerns about influx of migrants at U.S.-Mexico border

Republicans and Democrats mention different considerations when asked about their top concerns related to the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Chart shows Republicans, Democrats have differing top concerns about the migration surge at the U.S.-Mexico border

Republicans are more likely than Democrats to mention issues related to the economy or border security. Democrats are more likely to express concerns about migrants’ safety and wellbeing.

Among Republicans – who are more likely to offer a response to this question than Democrats – concerns about security are mentioned frequently (36%). Democrats are far less likely to cite a security concern (10%).

There is a somewhat smaller partisan gap in how often concerns about economic costs related to an influx of migrants come up: 31% of Republicans mention concerns related to the economy, as do 17% of Democrats.

Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to say their top concern is for the treatment, security and well-being of migrants attempting to enter the U.S. (19% vs. 3%, respectively).

What else do Americans want to share about their views on immigration?

Chart showing Americans' responses to an open-ended question about their thoughts on immigration

In a separate open-ended question – which asked Americans to write any other thoughts they had about immigration – 45% offered a response while more than half skipped the question. Republicans were more likely than Democrats to take this opportunity to share additional thoughts (55% vs. 37%, respectively).

These responses vary widely, with many people mentioning multiple considerations in their responses.

For example, one respondent says, “It would be great if we could take everyone in, but we can’t. The border needs to be secure and securing it a top priority. Those arriving at the border attempting to cross must be treated with care and compassion and a bipartisan solution needs to be found.”

Some mention a desire for immigration policies to be more restrictive (8%), often citing concerns about the volume of people attempting to enter or the need for more selectivity about who is allowed to stay.

  • One person offers that “we need to slam the door on immigration now just to give us time to develop a proper and competent system for dealing with it, because we don’t have that now.”

A similar share writes about the need to address the immediate crisis through additional resources to border states or taking steps to secure the border more generally (7%).

  • One person responds: “[We] need to secure the border and increase budgets for customs to process these migrants properly. They can work if they pay taxes and go through [the] system to become citizens. But we need to overhaul the system first.”

Others take the opportunity to share their own positive views of immigrants (5%) or mention the need for support for migrants (4%).

  • One person writes, “Immigrants are an essential part of the United States’ history and future. Politicians and the media have made them out to be villains, but they are a part of the U.S. fabric.”
  • From another respondent: “America should be honored that so many people want to come here. We should do what we can to support and foster immigrants’ integration into American society.”

Sizable shares talk about how the system overall is broken and needs fixing (6%) or that politicians purposefully use the issue to gain partisan advantage (5%).

  • One person writes, “Congress has been kicking the can down the road for years. No one group wants to lose political capital by actually doing something concrete and credible with this issue.”

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