Americans want more border security funding but are split on what it would look like

Morning In America

(NewsNation Now) — A plurality of Americans want increased funding for security at the U.S.’s southern border but are split on what the security would look like, according to a new NewsNation/Decision Desk HQ poll.

More than 48% of respondents said they want to see Congress pass more funding for the southern border compared to just 20% who don’t, according to the new NewsNation, which surveyed more than 1,000 registered voters over the weekend. 31% think the amount of funding should stay the same.

The U.S. has spent an estimated $333 billion on immigration enforcement, since the Department of Homeland Security’s creation in 2003. As the needs and complications of border security have changed, so have the funding levels for customs and border protection. In this year’s budget, the DHS asked for $28 million to buy a new surveillance plane that can withstand conditions along the border.

Funding specifically for the U.S. Border Patrol has grown to $4.8 billion, which is three times more than where it was in 2003. The number of border agents has nearly doubled from the fiscal year 2003 to 2019. Money has also gone to infrastructure and programs designed to enhance border security.

But Americans are split on what exactly border security looks like. Is it a wall? Just about half of Americans say yes, the other half say no. Some lawmakers say that opinion depends on where you call home.

“If you don’t live at the border, it’s not really as important to you,” said Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R.-Ala.)

It’s also a near 50-50 split on questions surrounding border wall effectiveness and support for “catch-and-release” policies for women, children and families apprehended at the border.

The U.S. expelled migrants nearly 1.5 million times from March 2020 through November under Title 42 authority, named for a 1944 public health law that the Trump and Biden administrations have used to deny migrants a chance to seek asylum on grounds that it will curb the spread of the coronavirus. That accounts for about two of three arrests or expulsions at the border, most involving single adults and some families. Unaccompanied children have been exempt under President Joe Biden.

This comes amid a bump in support for immigration with nearly 70 percent of Americans supporting a path to citizenship, according to the NewsNation poll. Generally, in the past, blanket support for a path has gone no higher than the high 50s.

Americans’ feelings about a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the country has ebbed and flowed in the past several years. The country has typically been strongly in favor of citizenship for DREAMers, the term for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. The percentage also remains high if there are some requirements to the path toward citizenship

Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine says support for both border security and citizenship for immigrants willing to pay taxes, work and adjust their legal status is becoming a mainstream idea in Congress,

“I can understand why a lot of Americans think that deal makes sense,” Kaine told NewsNation.

“We welcome immigrants but you got to do it in a legal process and we need to know who’s coming in,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said.

You can see NewsNation’s full poll results here.

NewsNation reporters Robert Sherman and Katie Smith are spending three weeks traversing the southern border — starting in San Diego, California on Feb. 14 and ending in Brownsville, Texas later this month — telling the stories of communities in crisis. Follow our live blog here.

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