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Poll Finds More Americans Highly Concerned About Illegal Immigration

FILE - Migrants expelled from the U.S. and sent back to Mexico under Title 42 walk toward Mexico at the Paso del Norte International border bridge on April 1, 2022.
FILE - Migrants expelled from the U.S. and sent back to Mexico under Title 42 walk toward Mexico at the Paso del Norte International border bridge on April 1, 2022.

A Gallup poll released Tuesday shows that Americans' worry over unauthorized immigration is near a two-decade high ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, with Republicans and Democrats increasingly polarized on the issue.

From March 1-18, Gallup surveyed 1,017 people living in all U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Forty-one percent said they worry "a great deal" about illegal immigration – the highest proportion since 2007, when 45% of respondents said they were concerned "a great deal" about the issue.

About 60% said they worry at least "a fair amount" about illegal immigration.

According to the Gallup polling, Democrats and Republicans have been moving in opposite directions when it comes to opinions on immigration.

Since 2006, Democrats have grown less concerned about illegal immigration. Only 18% of people polled last month said they are concerned "a great deal" about the issue while 44% said they are "not at all" concerned.

The reverse is true for Republicans, with 68% saying they are "a great deal" concerned about illegal immigration. Although that figure is down from 76% in 2021, it is up considerably from 29% in 2001.

"Only 5% of Republicans are not concerned at all. … overall percentage worried either a great deal or fair amount has expanded from just over half of Republicans in 2001 to nearly nine in 10 today," Gallup says.

The survey was conducted before the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced its decision to end Title 42 expulsions – a pandemic-era emergency health order that allowed immigration authorities to quickly expel migrants at the border, including those seeking asylum.

Title 42

Since the Biden administration announced that Title 42 would end by May 23, Republicans have warned the halt will bring even more illegal immigration to the border.

While some Democrats celebrated the end of Title 42, others have raised concerns about how the administration will handle any further surges of arrivals at the border.

Speaking with reporters Tuesday, Michigan Senator Gary Peters, a Democrat, said, "Unless we have a well thought-out plan, I think it is something that should be revisited and perhaps delayed. I'm going to defer judgment on that until I give the administration the opportunity to fully articulate what that plan is. But I share … concerns of some of my colleagues."

For more than a year, the Biden administration kept in place at the U.S. southern border the Trump-era policy that allowed the United States to quickly expel migrants to their countries of origin or Mexican border towns.

On April 1, the administration announced the policy would end May 23, giving U.S. officials time to prepare for what they expect will be an increase in migrant arrivals.

A considerable number of border apprehensions in March were due to record arrivals of migrants from Ukraine, Cuba, Colombia and Nicaragua, per DHS data released this week.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) data, Title 42 has been used in most of the estimated 2 million expulsions of migrants from Brazil, Central America, Haiti, Mexico and Colombia since March 2020. Other asylum-seekers from South America have been rapidly blocked at ports of entry under the policy.

In March, U.S. border officials registered 221,303 migrant encounters. Of those, 109,549 were expelled. The rest could have been detained, allowed to seek asylum or paroled into the United States, among other options.

In February, there were 164,973 encounters with 91,513 expulsions.

CBP also reported a 28% rate of repeat border crossings in March.

Although much attention has been given to unauthorized crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border, a fiscal year 2021 report from Department of Homeland Security (DHS) shows that 684,499 people overstayed their visas — or 1.48% of nearly 50 million visitors to the U.S.

"In other words, 98.52% of the in-scope nonimmigrant entries departed the United States on time and in accordance with the terms of their admission," the DHS report says.