BP arrest

U.S. Border Patrol Agents apprehend three adults and three children after they crossed the Rio Grande in a raft, east of the Rio Grande Port of Entry, in July. A new poll found a majority of voters living near the border disagree with current immigration policies and do not trust border agents.

SIERRA VISTA — A poll released Wednesday indicates a majority of people living within 100 miles of the border with Mexico are at odds with the Trump administration’s and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents’ handling of immigration detainees, with dislike for the Border Patrol (BP) checkpoints scattered around California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

Data collected by Tom Wong, director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Center at University of California San Diego, show many registered voters across the four southwestern border states “disapprove of the way that the president is handling issues at the U.S.-Mexico border.” The U.S. Immigration Policy Center is a non-profit dedicated to promoting immigration, and not a branch of the federal government.

The group of 2,750 registered voters, ranging in age from 18 to over 55, who responded to the landline phone and cell phone calls for the poll indicated a “general lack of trust in Border Patrol officials” to protect the rights and civil liberties of all people, to keep border residents safe and are not held accountable for their abuses of power.

Wong presented his results in a press conference which he says shows “registered voters in the southwestern border states generally prefer policies directly opposite to those of the current administration.”

The majority of voters polled want immigrants treated as human beings and not criminals for trying to better their lives in a country that touts freedom and pursuit of happiness for all. They also want the prosecution of people who provide help to illegal immigrants to stop, according to Wong’s poll.

The U.S. should invest “more in making ports of entry more efficient rather than spending more on border security” and voters across those four states” oppose additional federal spending on border walls and fencing,” he said. Results are “mixed when it comes to additional federal spending on hiring more Border Patrol agents.”

Wong went on to say, “National polls tend to dilute the perspectives that southwestern border state residents have about immigration policies, which can distort our thinking about where the public stands. In addressing this, what we see in the data is that registered voters in the southwestern border states generally lack trust in the Border Patrol and consistently hold border policy preferences that are opposite to those of the current administration.”

Communities in Texas, some 60 percent, do not want migrants in detention centers or children in CBP care, Houle added. Detention facilities lack adequate medical resources for migrants and the loss of three children while in custody just this past summer highlighted health care problems.

The poll statistics

The statistics from respondents show 56.3 percent “strongly disapprove or disapprove of the way the president is handling issues at the U.S.-Mexico border,” with “36.7 percent” who stand with the president, he reported.

The majority of the respondents want the government to come up with alternatives to immigration detention for families fleeing persecution and insist unaccompanied children illegally crossing should be placed with child welfare specialists, not CBP staff.

Almost 60 percent also say those “fleeing persecution and seeking refuge in the U.S., including women and children, should be allowed to enter the U.S. in order to ensure their safety while their asylum case is pending.”

Nearly 60 percent of registered voters in the four states say want the ports of entry updated, made more efficient and reduce wait times to cross.

After being told about existing border infrastructure and the diversion of federal funds, nearly 6 out of 10, are “strongly opposed or opposed” to more federal spending to build the border wall and fencing.

In each of the four states, the percentage of registered voters believed BP officials would not be held accountable for their abuses of power.

Currently, there are 20,000 BP agents and most are at the southern border with Mexico, Wong stated. In 2017, nearly $300 million was allocated to hire an additional 7,500 Border Patrol agents over a five–year period — only about a hundred new agents were added.

When respondents read that and learned there are difficulties in hiring more agents, the poll shows 48 percent opposed hiring more and 40.3 percent in support.

In perhaps a more telling revelation of where people stand on inalienable rights, Wong posed two statements about all persons having the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. “92.9 percent strongly agreed or agreed that all people have the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

However, when the statement added “regardless of their immigration status,” only 77 percent of people agreed.

But, he pointed out, it still means that over 3 out of 4 people agree “the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness applies to all people regardless of immigration status.”

It made sense to target the four southern border states because they are “constantly impacted by Trump’s immigration policies,” the press release states. “The poll reveals voters’ attitudes in these policies are contrary to the current administration. Despite the president’s belief, his continued hardline immigration policies have not fared well with voters who live in the Southwest. This poll is important because it gives policymakers, elected officials and the country at large critical insights from those most impacted by the Trump’s destructive and inhumane border policies.”

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