Survey: Most Americans Believe There Is An “Invasion” At The Southern Border

In line with a general fall in support for immigrants, more than half of Americans feel there is a “invasion” at the southern border.

As inaccurate and misleading comments about immigration gain traction, the study also revealed that many Americans have a range of misconceptions about immigrants, drastically exaggerating their role in bringing illegal narcotics into the country and how likely they are to use public benefits, for example.

More Republicans are prone to have unfavorable opinions of immigration. However, the poll revealed they are not the only ones who have adopted increasingly aggressive rhetoric on immigration.

Many Americans are finding resonance in “invasion” rhetoric

According to the study, the majority of Americans, including three-quarters of Republicans, believe that the United States is “experiencing an invasion” at its southern border, either slightly or entirely.

With two months left before the fiscal year ends, the U.S. Border Patrol has apprehended migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border more than 1.8 million times since October, setting an annual record for arrests.

In accordance with the public health edict known as Title 42, which has been in effect since the start of the pandemic, nearly half of those migrants were swiftly deported. However, many more were permitted to apply for asylum and other forms of protection in the US.

Republican leaders are describing the situation more and more as a “invasion.” The phrase has a lengthy history in white supremacist movements, according to immigrant advocates, who also caution that such extreme speech may incite further violence against immigrants.

However, the survey indicates that many Americans have adopted the term “invasion” to characterize what is occurring at the border.

In a follow-up interview, Republican from Nevada Michael Cisternino, who responded to the survey, remarked that “we are not actually screening enough people to make it safe for the rest of the country.”

Whether they are criminals or not, Cisternino asserted that “we, the citizens of the United States, really don’t have control over who is coming in, where they are going, or what they are going to do when they get there.”

Studies have consistently demonstrated that immigrants are less likely than native-born Americans to commit crimes or end themselves in jail. A majority of Republicans who responded in the NPR/Ipsos poll wrongly said that immigrants are more likely to commit crimes.

Republicans were also more likely to use language that echoed the “replacement hypothesis,” a debunked myth that claims Jews or other elites are actively driving out white Americans in favor of immigrants and people of color.

More than a third of all respondents to the poll, including more than half of Republicans, concur that “native-born Americans are being systematically replaced by immigrants.” Over 70% of Republicans concur with the nearly 50% of Americans who claim that “Democrats are attempting to open our borders to more immigration.”

Republicans view the immigration debate as being much more vital than Democrats do. Only 4% of Democrats list immigration as their top concern, compared to over a quarter of GOP respondents who believe it is one of the “most disturbing” issues the nation is now facing.

Neel-Gopal Sharma, a Democrat from North Carolina who responded to the poll, stated in a subsequent interview that “a lot of immigrants are coming here for safety, and a lot of them are coming here for a shot” at a better life.

The parents of Sharma immigrated from India to Canada, where he was born, and then to the US. According to Sharma, it’s getting more and more normal to blame immigrants and other individuals with diverse appearances for the nation’s issues.

He claimed that there was some xenophobic discourse going around. Therefore, I’m not shocked by it.

False accusations about immigrants are spreading, especially in relation to fentanyl

Despite the lack of evidence explicitly linking migrants to the issue, the poll indicated that a significant portion of Americans, including substantial majorities of Republicans, blame migrants for an increase in fentanyl-related deaths.

It is true that the number of fentanyl overdose deaths has increased recently, and that much of the country’s fentanyl supply is brought across the border illegally.

However, according to experts, only a small amount of fentanyl and other illegal substances are smuggled across the border between those ports; the vast majority are concealed in huge trucks and passenger cars as they are driven through authorized ports of entry.

According to Victor Manjarrez, Jr., a professor at the University of Texas at El Paso and a former Border Patrol sector chief, almost none are smuggled by migrants themselves.

The likelihood of them possessing any illegal drugs is probably quite low, according to Manjarrez. “That fentanyl is entering the country mostly through ports of entry,”

Nevertheless, six out of ten Republicans in the survey responded erroneously when they said that “most” of the fentanyl entering the country is smuggled by immigrants.

In a similar vein, even though many immigrants are prohibited from utilizing the majority of government benefit programs, more than half of Republicans claim that immigrants are “more likely” to use public assistance benefits than the native-born population. Less than 25% of Republicans properly labelled that claim as untrue.

According to Mallory Newall, a vice president at polling company Ipsos, “These comments of inaccurate or misleading or incomplete information are absolutely getting increasing momentum among Republicans.”

Partisanship, however, is not the sole aspect.

According to Newall’s polling, “where you obtain your news from and your inclination to trust these inaccurate or incomplete assertions about immigration rely on both your partisan identification.”

According to Newall, Republicans who get their news from Fox News and conservative media are more inclined to accept erroneous or deceptive storylines as well as the notion that they are “fully true.”

This conclusion was particularly compelling when it came to alleged “ghost flights.” Republicans charge the Biden administration with setting up covert aircraft that transport migrants from the border to towns all around the nation. Immigrant rights activists, however, point out that such flights are neither covert nor novel and charge Republican critics with inciting anxiety for political purposes.

If the US is “secretly flying unaccompanied migrant children across the country at night,” the question in the poll asked. About eight out of ten Republicans who use Fox or other conservative media as their primary news source agreed with that statement, according to Newall. Republicans who read their news elsewhere, though, weren’t as confident; only 4 in 10 responded with the affirmative.

Falling immigration support and rising support for a border wall

Three out of four respondents agreed that “immigrants are a vital element of our American identity” when NPR surveyed Americans about immigration in 2018.

This number has significantly decreased today.

That’s not the only sign of eroding support for immigrants in the latest poll.

When asked four years ago, nearly two-thirds of respondents favored a pathway to legal status for the so-called Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children. Now that support has fallen to a bare majority, driven largely by a steep drop among Republicans and independents.

There’s also been a modest but steady increase in support for a wall at the southern border, from 38% in favor four years ago up to 46% now.

It’s not clear why those numbers have shifted. Mallory Newall at Ipsos suspects the explanation is tied to broader concerns about inflation and the economy.

“One thing that we know is that during times of bad economic conditions, for example, the recession in 2009, support for immigration declines,” she said.

There’s also a theory that support for immigrants tends to fall when there is a perception of chaos at the southern border. And the spread of false and misleading claims could be a factor, as well.

The reach of deceptive and incorrect statements might be expanding

According to the poll, some incorrect and deceptive information may be spreading faster than before.

NPR questioned if immigrants were more likely to commit crimes or end up in jail than people who were born in the United States four years ago. More than 60% of responders at the time accurately identified that assertion as untrue. But this year, when the question was repeated, just 49% of respondents correctly answered.

The Americans’ understanding of immigration seemed to have gotten worse over the previous four years in more questions than just that one.

In 2018, six out of ten respondents were correct when they stated that the majority of undocumented immigrants in the US have been living there for more than ten years. This time, 43% properly responded; about as many others claimed they were unsure.

According to Sophia Jordán Wallace, a political science professor at the University of Washington who has investigated false and deceptive claims about immigration, “There have historically been a lot of framing issues around immigration that have sometimes twisted facts intentionally.”

According to Wallace, it has a long history in American politics to blame immigrants for actual issues the nation is facing in an effort to stoke voter turnout, regardless of any relationship between the immigrants in question and the issues they are accused of generating.

These erroneous or deceptive claims don’t always make it to the mainstream. But occasionally, claims Wallace, they do.

“It’s difficult to fix once it’s out there,” she remarked.

 

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