Many Americans say immigrants contribute to economy but there’s worry over risks, AP-NORC poll finds – Boston Herald


WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are more worried about legal immigrants committing crimes in the U.S. than they were a few years ago, a change driven largely by increased concern among Republicans, while Democrats continue to see a broad range of benefits from immigration, a new poll shows.

The poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that substantial shares of U.S. adults believe that immigrants contribute to the country’s economic growth, and offer important contributions to American culture. But when it comes to legal immigrants, U.S. adults see fewer major benefits than they did in the past, and more major risks.

About 4 in 10 Americans say that when immigrants come to the U.S. legally, it’s a major benefit for American companies to get the expertise of skilled workers in fields like science and technology. A similar share (38%) also say that legal immigrants contribute a major benefit by enriching American culture and values.

Both those figures were down compared with 2017, when 59% of Americans said skilled immigrant workers who enter the country legally were a major benefit, and half said legal immigrants contribute a major benefit by enriching American culture.

Meanwhile, the share of Americans who say that there’s a major risk that legal immigrants will commit crimes in the U.S. has increased, going from 19% in 2017 to 32% in the new poll.

Republicans were more likely than Democrats to say that immigration is an important issue for them personally, and 41% now say it’s a major risk that legal immigrants will commit crimes in the U.S., up from 20% in 2017. Overall, Republicans are more likely to see major risks — and fewer benefits — from immigrants who enter the country legally and illegally, although they tend to be most concerned about people who come to the country illegally.

Bob Saunders is a 64-year-old independent from Voorhees, New Jersey. He disapproves of President Joe Biden’s performance when it comes to immigration and border security and is particularly worried about the number of immigrants coming to the southern border who are eventually released into the country. He stressed that there’s a difference between legal and illegal immigration. Saunders said it’s important to know the background of the immigrants coming to the U.S. and said legal immigration contributes to the economy. He also noted the immigrants in his own family.

“It’s not anti-immigration,” Saunders said. “It’s anti-illegal immigration.”

Many Republicans, 71%, say there’s a risk of people in the country illegally coming to the U.S. and committing crimes , although many studies have found immigrants are less drawn to violent crime than native-born citizens. Even more, 80%, think there’s a major risk that people in the country without permission will burden public service programs, while about 6 in 10 Republicans are concerned that there’s a major risk of them taking American jobs, that their population growth will weaken American identity or that they will vote illegally — although only a small number of noncitizen voters have been uncovered.

Amber Pierce, a 43-year-old Republican from Milam, Texas, says she understands that a lot of migrants are seeking a better life for their children, but she’s also concerned migrants will become a drain on government services.

“I believe that a lot of them come over here and get free health care and take away from the people who have worked here and are citizens,” Pierce said. “They get a free ride. I don’t think that’s fair.”

Democrats, on the other hand, are more likely to see benefits from immigration, although the poll did find that only half of Democrats now think that legal immigrants are making important contributions to American companies, a decrease of more than 20 percentage points from 2017. But they’re more likely than Republicans to say that the ability of people to come from other places in the world to escape violence or find economic opportunities is extremely or very important to the U.S’s identity as a nation.

“People who are coming, are coming for good reason. It’s how many of us got here,” said Amy Wozniak, a Democrat from Greenwood, Indiana. Wozniak said previous waves of immigrants came from European countries. Now immigrants are coming from different countries but that doesn’t meant they’re not fleeing for justifiable reasons, she said: “They’re not all drugs and thugs.”

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