One of the most controversial issues in the national debate over immigration reform is creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. But according to two new surveys from the Pew Hispanic Center, the majority of Latinos and Asian Americans believe deportation relief is a more important issue.
Most Latinos and Asian Americans surveyed support a route to citizenship. But a majority of both groups also say being able to live and work in the U.S. legally without the threat of deportation is more important. Jeffrey Tapia, the executive director of Atlanta’s Latin American Association, says that’s not surprising.
“When you pit the idea of being able to live and work legally in the U.S. without the threat of deportation against having a pathway to citizenship, alleviating the threat of deportation is an absolute priority,” Tapia says. “Deportation is ripping families apart across the United States.”
Not all immigrants want to become citizens. Helen Kim Ho, the executive director of the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center in Norcross, says that makes the threat of deportation more critical for some.
“Some of the deportation cases that we hear about are those of legal permanent residents that, because of a past arrest or conviction that’s very, very old, all of the sudden they’re in deportation hearings and they had no idea,” Ho says.
The U.S. Senate passed an immigration bill earlier this year that would provide a path to citizenship, but it stalled in the House. Immigration reform advocates have pressured President Obama to use his executive power to stop deportations.