As the coronavirus spreads across the United States, the Trump administration recently announced that the U.S.-Mexico border would be closed to all non-essential travel. This move also affects immigrants at the border. Beginning on Saturday, March 21, 2020, asylum seekers who crossed the border illegally will be turned away instead of being placed at detention centers where their cases could be processed. Fears over the spread of the virus in overcrowded detention facilities were cited as the reason to turn away asylum seekers. The Trump administration has persistently pursued restrictive immigration policies since it came into power.
As Americans have grown more likely to rate immigration a critical issue since 2016 (from 44% to 49%), Americans who live in states along the U.S.-Mexico border are notably more likely to say that immigration is a critical issue today than residents in other states (54% vs. 47%), according to PRRI 2019 American Values Survey.
Interestingly, Americans who reside in southern border states express less restrictive views on immigration than residents in other states. Specifically, Californians, Texans, New Mexicans, and Arizonans are less likely to be in favor of building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico than residents of other states (35% vs. 44%). Similarly, residents in southern border states are less likely to favor temporarily preventing people from some majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S. than residents in other states (39% vs. 47%). In contrast, residents of border states are substantially more likely than residents of other states to favor allowing immigrants who are in the country illegally to be eligible for government-provided health care benefits (42% vs. 28%).
However, when taking a closer look at specific border states, these views vary. Texans, for instance, tend to be more in favor of building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico than Californians (43% vs. 32%). Texans are also notably more likely to be in favor of temporarily preventing people from some majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S., compared to residents in California (55% vs. 29%).
In order to evaluate overall attitudes toward immigration policies, based on combined responses to four questions, Americans residing in southern border states are notably less likely to support restrictive immigration policies as a whole compared to Americans residing in other states (47% vs. 57%), but Texans are more likely to hold restrictive views than Californians (55% vs. 43%).
Majorities of residents in U.S.-Mexico border states and other states express favorable views toward immigrants, but Americans in border states are notably more likely to do so. Specifically, border states’ residents are more likely than those residing in other states to say that the growing number of newcomers from other countries strengthen American society (65% vs. 57%) and that immigrants today strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents (67% vs. 58%). This is true for Californians and Texans alike.
Immigration officials indicated that the new rule will also include sending asylum seekers who crossed the border illegally to Mexico. Mexico changed its original position to not accept any non-Mexican immigrants. Since the rule took effect on March 21, nearly 10,000 Mexicans and Central Americans have been sent to Mexico. Under the “Remain in Mexico” policy, asylum seekers are forced to wait in Mexico while waiting for their cases to be processed.
Index is based on responses to (1) Passing a law that places stricter limits on the number of legal immigrants coming to the U.S. (2) Temporarily preventing people from some majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S., (3) Building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, and (4) Passing a law to prevent refugees from entering the U.S.