WASHINGTON (AP) – More Americans disapprove of how President Joe Biden is handling the growing number of unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the US-Mexico border., and approval of his efforts on a broader immigration policy. it does not get to other important issues, suggesting that it could be a weak point for the new administration.
A new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research It also shows that solving the problem of youth at the border is a top immigration priority for Americans: 59% say that providing safe treatment for unaccompanied children when they are detained should be a high priority, and 65% % say the same about the reunification of separated families at the border.
Former President Donald Trump built his presidency around hardline policies that expanded and fortified the border walls, made it more difficult for people fleeing drug violence and other desperate circumstances in Mexico and Central America to seek asylum in the United States. and separated immigrant families.
Biden has tried to build on the political momentum on the issue by promising a more humane and orderly system.But his administration has struggled to cope with the growing number of migrants arriving at the border, especially unaccompanied children.
Overall, 40% of Americans disapprove of Biden’s handling of children arriving at the southern border of the country without their parents, compared to just 24% who approve. Thirty-five percent do not have an opinion at all.
“I don’t know how to put this politically correctly – I feel like because there is this new administration, people feel like they can come to the country,” said Mindy Kiehl, a 40-year-old real estate agent in Erie, Pennsylvania, who otherwise approves of Biden’s handling of the presidency thus far.
“I understand. They are seeking shelter,” Kiehl added. “But bringing these children is not good for the children, it is not good for the families. I don’t know how that is going to solve the problem.”
Biden said at a recent press conference that “we are sending back the vast majority of the families who come.” But their struggles on the issue go beyond unaccompanied minors.
Only 42% of Americans say they approve of how the president is handling immigration in general, and a similar proportion, 44%, say they approve of how he is handling border security. Both are significantly lower than the 61% of Americans who say they approve of the way Biden is handling his job overall and fall short of the president’s rating on some other issues, including his response to the coronavirus pandemic. and management of the economy.
That gap comes despite the White House passing the most ambitious reform of the nation’s immigration system in a generation. on Biden’s first day in office. However, it has stalled in Congress and Republicans and even some of the top Democrats say approval will be difficult.
The plan would provide an eight-year path to citizenship for the 11 million people estimated to be living illegally in the U.S., but the survey shows doing so is not a priority for the public. Only 29% of Americans overall, including 42% of Democrats and 14% of Republicans, rated the legal status of people in the country illegally as a high priority.
Furthermore, only a third of Americans say allowing refugees to come to the United States or expanding “guest worker” programs should be top priorities.
The gap between Biden’s overall approval rating and his handling of immigration crosses partisan lines. Seventy-four percent of Democrats and 10% of Republicans approve of Biden’s handling of immigration, compared with 96% of Democrats and 22% of Republicans who approve of him overall.
The difference is also between racial and ethnic groups. Overall, 92% of Black Americans, 67% of Hispanics, and 52% of White Americans say they approve of the way Biden is handling his job. When it comes to immigration, 74% of black Americans, but only 50% of Hispanics and 34% of white Americans say they approve.
Jack Henes, a retiree in Sebastian, Florida, said that Biden has not addressed immigration or other hot topics and called what is happening on the southern border of the United States as an “administrative nightmare.”
While awaiting the broader legislative package, the Democratic-controlled House has passed smaller-scale reforms that face uncertain futures in a 50-50 split Senate. Biden has also used executive actions to try to reverse many immigration policies of the Trump administration, but has been criticized for not doing it fast enough.
Others feel that it has already gone too far.
“My concern is that President Biden has allowed the world to feel that it’s okay to just walk in,” said Matthew Behrs, a Trump supporter in Wisconsin.
The poll shows that many Americans rank some of the top goals of the Democratic proposal as moderate rather than high priorities, suggesting that Biden lacks a clear mandate on how best to proceed on the issue, potentially damaging his influence. in Congress.
And many want efforts to step up law enforcement to be part of the conversation: For 53%, increasing border security is a high priority. About 47% of Americans also say the federal government should make strengthening policies a high priority to prevent immigrants from staying longer on their visas.
Fewer, about a third, say that penalizing companies that hire immigrants living in the United States illegally and deporting immigrants living in the United States illegally should be top priorities.
The survey also finds that Americans are more likely to favor than oppose providing a way for immigrants brought into the United States illegally as children to stay legally, 53% to 24%, with 22% saying they are neither for or against. Still, only 41% consider extending legal protections to so-called Dreamers a high priority. A plan approved by the House But waiting for action from the Senate seeks to do just that.
Biden has now assigned Vice President Kamala Harris to work with Central American countries to try to address the root causes of illegal immigration. Henes, the retiree, suggested that Biden has given Harris the problem as a way to buy some time, but that he hasn’t helped.
“They are still in the group,” Henes said. “They are not ready to call a play.”
The AP-NORC survey of 1,166 adults was conducted March 26-29 using a sample drawn from the NORC probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the US population. respondents is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.