Americans' top priority on illegal immigration: visa violators

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Sixty-eight percent of respondents to a new poll said it was very important for the US to crack down on illegal immigration by tracking people who have overstayed their visas. No. 2 was beefing up forces on the border. Of all the tactics being used or considered to stem illegal immigration, Americans consider tracking visitors with expired visas to be the most important, according to a new poll.  The poll, released Monday by TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence (TIPP), asked respondents to assess the importance of border fencing, increased border patrols, penalties for hiring illegal immigrants, a "path to citizenship," increased deportations, temporary worker programs, elimination of public benefits for illegal immigrants, and tracking people whose visas have expired.

Sixty-eight percent of respondents said tracking those with expired visas is "very important" for the US to pursue.

Next came a larger border patrol force, and more prosecution of people or companies who hire illegal immigrants, both of which drew "very important" from 61 percent of respondents.

After that came increased deportations of illegal immigrants, which 53 percent of respondents viewed as "very important," followed by a path to citizenship, which just under half of respondents said was very important for the US to pursue.

More border fencing, which 44 percent characterized as "very important," and temporary worker programs for industries such as farm labor, at 42 percent, received the lowest level of support.

"People are saying, 'Let's go out and find where the illegals are,' " says Villanova University political scientist Matthew Kerbel. "And next they are saying, 'Let's beef up the force that keeps them from getting in here in the first place.' "

He notes the highest percentage of those calling a tactic "not very important" was for "more fencing on the borders," at 17 percent, followed by "elimination of public benefits such as health care, schooling, or aid to the poor for illegal immigrants," at 12 percent.

"They're telling the pollster that they feel enforcement is the way to go rather than deterrents, by making it less attractive to be here once you're already here," says Mr. Kerbel.

The same poll found that Americans tended to side with Arizona when asked about the US Department of Justice's recent lawsuit against Arizona's tough new immigration law. The poll was conducted from July 6 to July 11, among 852 respondents with a margin of 3.4 percentage points.

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