Fact of the Week: Americans Want US to Give Shelter and Support to Child Refugees
A new poll by the Public Religion Research Institute sheds some light on what the U.S. public thinks about the child refugee crisis happening along the country’s southern borders.
When asked what the U.S. should do about the children who are currently arriving from Central America without their parents, 70 percent of respondents say they should “offer shelter and support while beginning a process to determine whether they should be deported or allowed to stay in the U.S.” Only 26 percent want them to be deported immediately back to their home countries.
The poll, which was conducted among a random sample of over 1,000 adults in the U.S., also found that 69 percent of respondents believe that “The children arriving from Central America should be treated as refugees and should be allowed to stay in the U.S. if authorities determine it is NOT safe for them to return to their home country.” Only 27 percent agree that “The children arriving from Central America should be treated as illegal immigrants and should be deported back to their home countries.”
Despite the press coverage of some people displaying ugly hostility toward the refugees, the vast majority of Americans do not share these views. No one is saying we should do away with border protection and open the flood gates to anyone and everyone – in fact, the poll shows that 59 percent either mostly agree or completely agree that “The U.S. should NOT allow children coming from Central America to stay because it will encourage others to ignore our laws and increase illegal immigration.” But most Americans do believe it’s important to provide a safe haven for those who are truly fleeing danger: 71 percent either mostly or completely agree that that we should “provide refugee and protection for all people who come to the U.S. when they are facing serious danger in their home country.” The poll makes it clear that Americans also want a fair process to determine which of the refugees should be able to stay, and protections for all of them while they go through this process.
There’s also been talk about whether the current humanitarian crisis has had any effect on the public’s view of larger immigration reform. When asked how we should deal with immigrants who are currently living in the U.S. illegally, roughly 60 percent say the immigration system should allow them a pathway to citizenship provided they meet certain requirements, while only roughly 20 percent say the immigrants should be identified and deported. These numbers haven’t changed substantially from early April until now.
Congress needs to act immediately to provide additional funds for temporary housing and services to provide for basic needs and protection for these vulnerable children, as well as funds for more judges and legal teams to process cases, to transfer children to more appropriate family settings, and to seek better international solutions. They should do so without policy restrictions that will mean speedier deportations that don’t first allow for a proper assessment of children’s request for safe haven. And they should do so without requiring that other services are cut in order to pay for these emergency needs.
For more information, see our Q&A on the child refugee crisis, and if you haven’t already done so, tell your Senators and Representative to support emergency funding for this humanitarian crisis today.