Feb 15, 2023 - Politics & Policy

America turns against immigration

Reproduced from Gallup; Note: Data unavailable for 2009-2011; Chart: Axios Visuals

The share of Americans wanting less immigration has spiked across the board since President Biden took office in 2021, according to a new Gallup survey.

Why it matters: Just 28% of Americans say they're satisfied with immigration levels in the U.S. — the lowest in a decade. Nearly 2/3 of the dissatisfied want less immigration.

  • The survey sheds light on why Congressional Republicans have made a point of attacking Biden's border policies, and how the focus on the border could be resonating with some voters.

Driving the news: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will make his first trip to the border as speaker on Thursday — visiting Arizona with Reps. Juan Ciscomani (R-Ariz.), Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-Oreg.), Jen Kiggans (R-Virg.) and Derrick Van Orden (R-Wisc.)

  • It will come one day after the 118th Congress's first field hearing at the border — held by two Energy and Commerce subcommittees in McAllen, Texas.
  • Top committees probing the so-called border crisis are also expected to fly members down to the border for visits and hearings in the coming weeks.
  • Homeland Security Chairman Mark Green (R-Tenn.) is leading what he has called a "border bootcamp" for House GOP freshmen next week in El Paso, according to a committee aide.
  • There has been a general push for committees to hold hearings in the field, one House GOP aide familiar with discussions on the topic told Axios.

The big picture: Satisfaction with immigration levels hit a high of 41% in 2017 and a low of 23% in 2008 over the past 23 years Gallup has been measuring.

  • While the share of Independents and Democrats wanting less immigration has spiked in recent years, that viewpoint among Independents and Democrats generally has trended down since the years following 9/11.
  • More than half of Democrats still are satisfied with immigration levels or want it increased.

Between the lines: The rise in Americans' concern about immigration levels is likely tied to the record numbers of crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border the past two years, according to Gallup.

  • Since Biden came into office, he has struggled to get a handle on unprecedented levels of migration throughout the Western Hemisphere.
  • The administration finally has good news with illegal border crossings plummeting in January after the rollout of new carrot-and-stick border policies.

The bottom line: The rise in fentanyl-related overdose deaths has fueled GOP interest in border security, although fentanyl smuggling overwhelmingly occurs at legal ports of entry and can involve U.S. citizens.

  • Roughly 8,200 pounds of fentanyl have been seized at legal entry points along the southwest border so far this fiscal year — 17 times more than the 477 pounds seized by Border Patrol agents who focus on stopping smugglers and migrants attempting to cross the border illegally, according to U.S. data.
  • In contrast, 87% of encounters with migrants and asylum seekers have been by Border Patrol rather than at ports of entry.
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