A poll released Thursday shows that a slight majority of likely voters believe that undocumented immigrants should return to their countries.
In the survey, commissioned by the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington D.C. group that supports strict immigration enforcement, 52 percent of respondents said that they prefer to see undocumented immigrants return to their country; 33 percent support giving them a chance to legalize their status.
A majority, 64 percent, said enforcement of immigration laws has been deficient, 10 percent said there has been too much legislation, and 15 percent said it was properly handled.
CIS also found that 53 percent of its respondents are more likely to back a political party that supports enforcing immigration laws, compared to 32 percent who prefer a party that backs legalization.
The poll is one of the most recent of several by different groups on immigration reform that show contradictory results. They have been released amid a flurry of steps by Congress and the Obama administration to tackle an overhaul of the immigration system.
A bipartisan Senate group recently unveiled a plan to tighten enforcement as well as offer a pathway to legalization for undocumented immigrants who meet a strict set of criteria. The Senate group’s plan, thus far, calls for the border to be secure before the legalization process begins.
President Obama’s plan also pivots on both components, but calls for undertaking them simultaneously.
Groups that favor strict immigration enforcement say they oppose giving an undetermined number of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants a chance to legalize, because doing so would amount to rewarding lawbreakers.
On Wednesday, an ABC News/Washington Post poll, for example, showed that 55 percent of those surveyed support the idea of giving undocumented immigrants a path to legalization, 41 percent oppose it.
The ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that 49 percent of Americans approve of Obama's approach to the immigration problem.
Also this week, a Gallup Poll showed that 70 percent of respondents favor a pathway to legalization. At the same time, 68 percent support increasing government spending on border security and enforcement, and 85 percent agree with requiring employers to verify the immigration status of potential hires.
Advocates of more lenient immigration policies expressed skepticism over the CIS poll.
"This appears to be evidence that the people polled do not have a real understanding of how our system functions," said Amy Gottlieb, an attorney with American Friends Service Committee, "the devastating impact of deportation, why people migrate, and what programs might bring about real change that protects the human rights of all."
The CIS press release, in turn, took a shot at other polls, saying theirs avoided "the false choice of conditional legalization vs. mass deportations."