President Donald Trump speaks at CPAC in Washington
Former President Donald Trump speaks at CPAC in Washington. Photo by: Reuters/Yuri Gripas

Immigration continues to be one of the main issues dominating the 2024 electoral campaign, and figures continue to show that former President and presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump holds a solid lead on the preferred way to deal with the situation.

A new report by The New York Times illustrates how the public opinion regarding immigration has shifted over the past years, going from broader acceptance during Trump's presidential term to reluctance as the amount of people reaching the country, especially through the southern border, skyrocketed under President Joe Biden's administration and after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Even though the current administration has recently taken a much harsher approach, with apprehensions plummeting throughout 2024, "immigration remains an albatross for President Biden," the Times says, noting that "even some Democratic mayors have complained that they need help from the federal government to contend with the migrant populations in their cities." The large majority of Americans who hold more anti-immigrant views continue to be Republicans.

Trump's harsh immigration measures, including reducing the number of visas and refugee admissions, enacting a travel ban from Muslim-majority countries and separating migrant families at the border played a relevant role in increasing support for immigration.

"By the time he left the White House, more Americans favored increasing immigration for the first time in six decades of Gallup polling," the report noted. However, more recent surveys have shown a drastic shift in that perception. And in three of the last four of Gallup's monthly polls immigration topped the list of concerns for Americans when asked open-ended questions. The latest edition of the poll, released last Friday, showed it dropped to second place but that it was still high by historical standards.

Concerns are not circumscribed to illegal immigrants. A March poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed Americans have also grown more concern about legal immigrants potentially committing crimes. Figures, however, disprove this notion, as they show they tend to have lower crime rates than natives.

Partisan divides remain, with many more Republicans than Democrats showing concern about the issue, and more Republican-led states passing bills making it a crime to be in the territory unlawfully.

However, a majority continues to approve of a compromise from both ends of the political spectrum, finding a balance between providing legal pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the country and increasing border security to reduce the number of those arriving at the country unlawfully.

Aware of his lead on the issue, Trump continues to claim he will hold mass deportations if elected. In an interview in the context of the Libertarian National Convention, Trump said that he would resort to local police to do so, and he intends to give them "immunity" against potential legal challenges that may ensue as a result.

Trump also said in an April interview that he would use the National Guard "as he sees fit" throughout American cities to deport immigrants if he's reelected. "If I thought things were getting out of control, I would have no problem using the military," he said in an interview with Time magazine.

Trump has had words of the kind regarding immigrants and immigration enforcement in practically all of his public appearances, also saying recently that that people arriving in the U.S. are "building an army" to attack Americans "from within."

The Biden administration, on its end, has recently passed a series of measures aimed at cracking down on immigration, with more expected to follow in the past days. However, it remains to be seen whether they will have an impact on the polls by the time November comes.

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