Border security no longer Americans’ first priority for immigration reform

BY Bridget Bowman  February 17, 2014 at 12:12 PM EST

The U.S. border fence between Mexico and Nogales, Ariz.  Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

The U.S. border fence between Mexico and Nogales, Ariz. Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

Americans now believe that immigration reform should place an equal emphasis on dealing with illegal immigrants currently in the U.S. and strengthening border security, according to a new poll. In the past, Americans saw border security as the main priority for any reform.

The Gallup poll released Monday found that 44 percent of Americans said it is “extremely important” to institute reforms that focus on undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. while 43 percent said securing the country’s borders was extremely important. In 2011, the majority of Americans, 53 percent, said border security should be the main focus of immigration reform.

A preference for border security dropped even among Republicans. According to the poll, 56 percent of Republicans say securing the border is extremely important, which is a 12 point drop from 2011. The percentage of Democrats and independents who rank border security as important also decreased.

While the poll showed a significant shift in the preference for border security, it did not demonstrate that Americans have shifted their preference to a plan that addresses illegal immigrants in the U.S. “Still, the gap is small,” wrote Gallup’s Jeffrey Jones, “suggesting this is not an overwhelming preference, and that a strategy that attempts to deal with both issues may be preferable.” However, a comprehensive immigration reform strategy seems unlikely to make it through Congress in the near future.