What Americans want out of immigration reform


Immigration reform activists hold a sign in front of Freedom Tower in downtown Miami on Jan. 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Nearly four in five Americans say that immigrants in the U.S. illegally should be granted some form of legal status, according to a new poll. But survey data provided to The Post show that such attitudes vary by region.

In general, Americans in the Northeast and West view illegal immigrants most favorably, showing stronger support for a pathway to citizenship and viewing their economic and cultural contributions more positively than their peers in the South and Midwest, according to data from the survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution. Overall, nearly four in five Americans — 79 percent — back the idea of granting some form of legal status to immigrants in the United States illegally. In the Northeast and West, 83 percent back legal status. In the South, just 73 percent support the idea. Here’s a look at regional attitudes toward immigrants and immigration policy.

How to deal with illegal immigrants

In the Midwest, 58 percent backed the idea of a pathway to citizenship, while a larger 67 percent share of Northeasterners said the same. Southerners were most in favor of deporting immigrants living in the United States illegally, with nearly one in four—24 percent—supporting the idea. One in five Midwesterners backed deportation, while 15 percent of Northeasterners and 14 percent of Westerners supported deportation.

How illegal immigrants affect the labor market

In only one part of the country — the West — do a majority of people view the economic impact of illegal immigrants positively. There, 51 percent say illegal immigrants help the economy by providing low-cost labor. Southerners are the most negative in their views on the impact illegal immigrants have on the economy: exactly half say illegal immigrants hurt the economy by driving down wages.

How immigration affects American culture

A majority of Americans in every region say immigration overall strengthens society, with the West leading the way at 62 percent support. The South and Midwest were home to the highest rates — 39 percent — of people saying immigration “threatens traditional American customs and values.”

Thoughts on the immigration system

Some 45 percent of Midwesterners think the immigration system is mostly broken, while just 32 percent of their Western neighbors say the same.  At least one in five in every region of the country says the system is “completely broken.”

Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.

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