As hundreds of exhausted people in a caravan of Central American asylum seekers reached the U.S. border in Mexico on Friday, American troops worked to fortify the fence and port of entry separating the two countries with strands of razor wire. (Nov. 16)
WASHINGTON – More than half of Americans – 54 percent – see the immigrant caravan as some kind of threat, but a majority – 70 percent – say the same immigrants should be able to qualify for asylum in the USA, according to a nationwide poll released Monday.
Patrick Murray, director of the New Jersey-based Monmouth University Polling Institute, said President Trump may have contributed to the nationwide divide over the immigrant caravan. The president turned the caravan into a campaign issue in the weeks leading to the midterm elections.
“Most of the public express some level of concern about the approaching caravan, some of which may be due to unsubstantiated claims that the group includes terrorists,” Murray said in a statement released with the Monmouth University Poll results. “At the same time, though, most Americans feel that each migrant should be given the opportunity to state their case for entering the United States.”
Trump called the caravan a potential “invasion” and responded by mobilizing the military to the border. The immigrants, mostly Central Americans, said they fled their home countries to escape violence, corruption and poverty.
Trump tweeted that “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in” the caravan. He advised a reporter to “go into the middle and search. You’re gonna find MS-13, your gonna find Middle Eastern, you’re going to find everything.”
The poll found that one in four people say the caravan includes terrorists and 13 percent are unsure but say the claim is likely to be true, About half of the respondents express doubt about the claim.
The Monmouth University Poll was taken days after the midterm elections and more than a month after the caravan formed in Central America. The caravan started Oct. 12 when about 120 immigrants gathered in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, near the Guatemala border, and has since gained thousands of participants, going through Mexico. In recent days, hundred of immigrants have arrived in Tijuana in hopes of gaining asylum in the USA.
Views of the caravan were split along partisan lines in the poll. Most Republicans, 51 percent, said the caravan should be turned back from the U.S. southern border, and 43 percent say the migrants should be afforded the opportunity to enter the USA. Most Democrats, 89 percent, and independents, 72 percent, say the immigrants deserve to be allowed into the USA.
Only 21 percent of those living in states that share a border with Mexico – Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas – view the immigrant caravan as a major threat, the poll found. The regions most worried about a “major threat” from the caravan include the Southeast (35 percent), the Midwest (33 percent) and mountain Northwest (33 percent). About 25 percent of those from the Northeast share that opinion.
Monday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection suspended northbound vehicle traffic at California’s San Ysidro border crossing, the largest land port along the U.S.-Mexican border, as immigrants began arriving.
Murray suggested the poll shows “few minds were changed by all the campaign rhetoric on this issue, but it certainly helped deepen the nation’s partisan divide.”
The Monmouth University Poll surveyed 802 adults by telephone from Nov. 9-12. The margin of error: +/-3.5 percentage points.
Contributing: Alan Gomez.
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