Will Racke, DCNF
A large majority of both Republicans and Democrats in Texas think police officers should be permitted to check the immigration status of someone they arrest, according to an annual poll from non-partisan leadership organization Texas Lyceum.
Overall, 93 percent of respondents said immigration status should be checked when a person is arrested for a crime, with 99 percent of self-identified Republicans and 88 percent of Democrats expressing support for such a policy.
Immigration checks received much less support in specific situations: during traffic stops, reports of criminal activity, or witness statements. Only 43 percent of all respondents said that police should check immigration status during a routine traffic stop; 40 percent said that it should be checked when a person is reporting a crime; and just 39 percent said that status should be checked when officers suspect that a person is a witness to a crime or could provide a statement.
For the first time in its 11-year history, the Texas Lyceum poll focused specifically on public attitudes about immigration policy, a subject of intense national debate under the Trump administration. The poll found that 27 percent of Texans think immigration or border security is the state’s most pressing problem, ranking the issue ahead of the economy, political corruption and healthcare.
“The issue of immigration reform and enforcement presents numerous challenges for elected officials — including costs, public safety, public health, employment and border security,” Texas Lyceum President Renard Johnson said in statement. “And it will always be of chief concern to Texans, who live along the country’s second largest international border next to Alaska.”
The poll of 1,000 Texans was conducted from April 3-9 and addressed many immigration-related questions including President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall and immigration checks in the workplace. The results show predictable partisan divisions and also some surprising disagreements with key aspects of the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement policies.
On the question of whether immigration generally hurts or helps the country, 39 percent of Texas Republicans said it hurts more than it helps, while 79 percent of Democrats felt the opposite. The percentage of Hispanics who said immigration helps increased by 12 points, from 59 percent to 71 percent.
A question about sanctuary cities, where local government officials limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities, also yielded a sharp partisan split. Texas Republicans opposed sanctuary policies by a 60-point margin over Democrats — 86 percent to 26 percent.
Trump’s border wall was not particularly popular among all Texans — only 35 percent approved of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border even though nearly three-fourths of those surveyed said they were extremely or somewhat concerned about illegal immigration.
Surprisingly, the percentage of Hispanic respondents that supported construction of the wall rose from 18 percent in 2016 to 25 percent this year.
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