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Illegal Immigration Divides Americans, Poll Says

Legal immigration levels
Graphics: NPR
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Americans are split three ways over illegal immigration, with about one-third saying undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay in the United States permanently and about one-third saying such immigrants should be granted only temporary worker status, according to a new poll. Another 27 percent say illegal immigrants should be required to return to their native countries.

"So the public is really very divided on this issue," says Andrew Kohut, director of the the Pew Research Center, which conducted the survey. "The ambivalence is remarkable."

A 70 percent majority of those polled said illegal immigrants should be denied local social services, but 71 percent favored allowing the children of illegal immigrants to attend school.

"It's not all one way with respect to the problem of immigration, and certainly with respect to immigrants themselves," Kohut tells Melissa Block.

About half of Americans (49 percent) say increasing the penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants would be most effective in stemming the flow of illegal immigration from Mexico. One-third prefer boosting the number of border patrol agents, and 9 percent say more fences should be built along the Mexican border.

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