President Trump has made immigration crackdown a central focus of his presidency, and a new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows a growing number of Republicans and Democrats agree that the worsening situation on the border is a “crisis.”
But Trump is offering a solution that relatively few Americans like. In fact, his newly announced decision to make it harder to seek asylum is even less popular than his border wall national emergency, according to the same poll.
The Post-ABC poll shows that 30 percent of Americans favor making it more difficult for those seeking asylum in the United States to obtain it. About as many — 27 percent — favor making it easier, while 34 percent want to leave the process as-is.
Even among Republicans, just 46 percent favor making it more difficult. Among the few groups where a majority support the idea are conservative Republicans (51 percent) and those who approve of Trump (53 percent). Even in the latter group, though, 29 percent say leave the system as-is, and 11 percent want to make it easier to seek asylum.
Late Monday, the White House announced that it was proposing a new fee for asylum seekers. It is also seeking to prevent those who cross the border illegally from obtaining work permits, and it set the ambitious goal of requiring asylum cases to be decided within 180 days.
The fee would put the United States out of step with most of the world, as the vast majority of countries do not require asylum seekers to pay any fee. Given the dire circumstances many asylum seekers come from, including economically, critics worry the fee would prove a barrier to those with legitimate claims.
There has been a huge uptick in the number of asylum seekers in recent months. More than 103,000 immigrants crossed the U.S.-Mexico border last month, and 60 percent of them were Central American families who have requested asylum. The system has become overburdened, and even critics of Trump’s immigration approach acknowledge the situation must be addressed.
But saying there’s a problem and saying this is the solution are two different things. Trump has repeatedly argued that asylum seekers are exploiting weak U.S. immigration and asylum laws and that many of them are criminals and gang members who are told to claim asylum even though they don’t need it. He has called the concept of asylum “a big con job.” Yet, even as the situation at the border is exacerbated by a growing number of asylum seekers, Americans are still clearly uncomfortable with increasing the burdens on them.
The proposed changes will likely take some time to implement, if they ever are. Attorney General William P. Barr has 90 days to come up with a plan, and the move will undoubtedly be challenged in court.
Because the poll was conducted before Trump’s announcement, it didn’t test the specific details of his proposal. A fresh debate about the specific proposals could feasibly change the levels of public support. But Trump has been pushing the idea that asylum seekers are exploiting the system for months, and it doesn’t seem to have led to a chorus of support within his base for tightening the rules.
The level of support is even less than the backing for his national emergency to build a border wall. The Post-ABC poll shows just 34 percent of Americans favor that, while 64 percent oppose it. But at least on that proposal, Trump’s base is strongly onboard. Seventy percent of Republicans back the border wall national emergency.
Trump’s overall approval on immigration stands at 39 percent, with 57 percent disapproving, according to The Post-ABC poll.