SEBRING A majority of Americans think illegal aliens should have a path to citizenship, a Pew survey found, and all six Sebring citizens interviewed on Wednesday morning agreed.
“I think if they have a viable job, they should be working toward citizenship,” said Tom Lawler. “I see nothing wrong with that as long as they work and pay taxes.”
However, he thinks aliens should learn and speak English in public. He tires of hearing foreign languages in supermarket conversations.
Pew Research Center’s survey of 1,501 Americans found 71 percent want a way for illegal immigrants to stay in the country if they meet legal requirements; 27 favor deportation.
In 2011, there were about 40 million immigrants in the United States. Of that total, 11.1 million were here illegally. Forty-three percent of Americans said illegal aliens currently in the country should be allowed to apply for citizenship; 24 percent illegal aliens should be allowed to apply only for legal residency.
Especially aliens with families here, said Eric Poczik. However, if they’re dealing drugs or committing crimes, they should be deported, he said.
Tashara Negron agreed: deport criminals. “But the ones who are already here should be allowed to stay here and work.”
Illegal aliens who were brought here as children by their parents should likewise have an opportunity for education, she said. Currently, they are allowed to enroll in high school, but not college.
“They should be allowed to get an education, just like we are,” Negron said.
Half of Americans said aliens strengthen this country because of their hard work and talents; 41 percent said aliens take jobs, health care and housing.
Vicki Marlow agrees that working illegal aliens should have a path to citizenship.
Her friend, Jerry Cougill, a former Indiana farmer, doesn’t fully buy the argument that citrus growers and dairies can’t find American workers. However, he doesn’t object to hiring aliens.
“If they pay the same damn taxes and Social Security that I do,” Cougill said. “But no free lunches.”
Support for granting legal status to illegal immigrants is wide ranging: 82 percent of Hispanics said illegal aliens should be allowed to stay if they meet certain requirements, along with 52 percent of blacks and 67 percent of whites.
There is more support among white college graduates: 81 percent versus 61 with no degree.
Partisan differences were significant, but even the most conservative say illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the United States with certain requirements: 76 percent of Democrats, 70 percent of independents and 64 of Republicans.
Pew Research Center, a non-partisan Washington, D.C., project that studies behaviors and attitudes of Americans in key areas of life, interviewed 1,501 adults in all 50 states during March. The report can be found at http://www.pewresearch.org/