3 May 2010

Americans worry that illegal immigrants are putting a strain on schools, hospitals and the depressed job market but still are sympathetic to their plight.

Eight in 10 Americans, 84%, are very or somewhat concerned that illegal immigrants are burdening government services, and 77% worry that they are driving down wages, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds.

Yet 77% are concerned that stricter immigration laws would mean illegal immigrants and their families who have lived productively in the United States for years would be forced to leave

"People seem to be more concerned about that than the hypothetical things like civil rights," Gallup pollster Jeffrey Jones said.

The seemingly contradictory sentiments reflect the difficulty in grappling with the immigration issue, said Tomas Jimenez, a fellow at the New America Foundation think tank and a sociology professor at Stanford University.

"On the one hand, they don't like the idea that people are breaking our immigration laws, that it appears we have a Southern border that is out of control," Jimenez said. "On the other hand, they think the people coming here who work hard, who have dreams of a better life, are really participating in an American tradition that is as old as this country."

The poll of 1,049 adults Saturday and Sunday has a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points.




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