published Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Poll: Majority of Tennesseans say immigrants a burden but oppose deportation

By Chas Sisk

Tennesseans have mixed opinions about immigration, with a majority saying foreigners have become a burden to the United States while also opposing a crackdown that would send illegal immigrants back to their home countries.

About 70 percent of Tennesseans believe immigrants take jobs from American citizens and use up tax dollars, according to a statewide poll by Vanderbilt University.

More than 60 percent said they favor giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship rather than arresting them and forcing them to leave. Most Tennesseans also said they support granting citizenship to all children born on U.S. soil, regardless of where their parents are from, a principle often referred to as birthright citizenship.

The results suggest that even as they hold negative views about the recent wave of immigration to the United States, many Tennesseans do not support extraordinary measures to remove people who are in the country illegally.

"It’s something that we just need to accept," Will Shuff, owner of the 12South Taproom said in an interview with The Tennessean conducted separately from the poll. "We need to find a solution that works for everybody. If we just totally eliminated that, it’s going to be dramatic."

The poll found general agreement among Tennesseans on how to address illegal immigration, including on major policy questions such as amnesty, mass deportations and birthright citizenship.

Only about 1 percent of Tennesseans support giving illegal immigrants citizenship without any requirements or amnesty, but only about 36 percent back deportations.

Tennesseans instead expressed support for heftier penalties on businesses that use illegal immigrants. More than 78 percent of Tennesseans told pollsters they would support fines on employers that hire illegal immigrants, and 62 percent said they would back jail time for the practice.

"I wouldn’t mind a little fining," said Alvin Riedl, a barber at the Granny White Barber Shop nearly Lipscomb University. "Seven days wouldn’t be bad either. Forty-eight hours even."

Education a factor

Tennesseans’ attitudes toward immigration varied somewhat based on their level of education.

More than 80 percent of people with a high school education or less said immigrants are a burden on American society, a view shared by only 47 percent of those with college degrees.

Otherwise, skepticism toward the benefits of immigration appeared to span the political spectrum, cutting across race, age and gender.

A majority of liberals, nearly 56 percent, told pollsters that they view immigrants as a burden, a view shared by 64 percent of moderates and 80 percent of conservatives. About two-thirds of Tennesseans less than 45 years of age see immigrants as burdensome, as do 72 percent of Tennesseans older than 65 and 78 percent of Tennesseans of ages in between.

"We’re good people that really want to push ourselves forward," Celeste Nuñez, a 24-year-old immigrant from Mexico, said as she waited in a Catholic Charities office on Nolensville Pike for help completing her citizenship application. "I think they really should give us a chance, not just Hispanics but all kinds of people."

Yet, majorities of Tennesseans of all ages told pollsters that they favor creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. That solution was favored by Democrats, Republicans and independents, and by 52 percent of respondents who identified themselves as members of the tea party movement.

"I’ve got immigrants who live right next to me, and their good neighbors," said Margaret Timmons, a 77-year-old retired nurse technician from Antioch. "They don’t bother me at all. … I think something should be done because they got to make a living just like anybody."

Several Middle Tennesseans said the citizenship requirements appear to be too difficult, raising unnecessary hurdles for immigrants, even those who are in the country legally.

"They need to give some permits to work," said Alfonso Martinez, a 26-year-old painter from Mexico who was naturalized in December. "All people want is to have drivers’ licenses and get jobs."

More than two-thirds of the people who called themselves tea partiers said they oppose granting citizenship to all children born in the U.S., but more generally, birthright citizenship drew majority support from Republicans and Democrats.

But support was widespread for tougher penalties on those who employ illegal immigrants. More than 85 percent of independents supported fines, as did 78 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of Democrats. A majority of liberals, 63 percent, backed fines, as did 79 percent of moderates and 81 percent of conservatives.

Even the suggestion of jail time was greeted with support. About two-thirds of conservatives and liberals supported sending employers who hire illegal immigrants to jail, as did 55 percent of moderates.

"Overall, Tennesseans are pretty unified in their perception of immigration," Clinton said. "It’s not a Republican or Democratic question. Most of the time, they’re on the same side of the issue."

Contact Chas Sisk at 615-259-8283 or


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stevo1 said...

same side? when theres no jobs? Our Government, has allowed the invasion of 30 million criminals in direct violation of Article IV, Section IV of our Constitution. they force American tax payers to pay Billions to provide Welfare, Prison cells, Educate the invaders children, free medical care,massive document fraud, & are destroying our schools, hospitals, communities, culture while Robbing, Raping, Killing & Assaulting American Citizens WAKE UP PEOPLE! Every Non-representative including obama and holder need to be IMPEACHED! for not upholding the oath of office they swore to defend the Constitution! If these clowns were to do their job, this would all be a Moot point! Anchor babies and their criminal parents go, period, and cut the phony tears, you knew you were breaking the law when you crossed the border.

Next shut down any business hiring illegal labor and confiscate all property belonging to the owner. Property will be sold at auction and the proceeds to pay for the massive deportation. Oh and owners go to jail. Got a better idea? Lets hear it!

February 9, 2011 at 7:11 a.m.
jpo3136 said...

Even the ancient Greeks gave good consideration to the immigrants who came to their nations.

During that 1990s, Congress restricted and reduced the number of people who can lawfully enter this country. The amount of legal immigrations to the US was set at an irrational and unobtainable lowly minimum. A lot of asylum claims were negated through a semi-competitive system that turns back a lot of people who need our help.

Fear has been the new standard for some time. Fear of immediate assassination or persecution by murder does still get people into the US lawfully. We don't accept, and have not accepted for almost ten years, the 1920s-style masses of people who immigrated through Ellis Island.

Let's keep this in mind as we say that we insist that people come here legally. We have all but closed that door for almost 20 years now. The reality is that in the mid-90s Congress set unfunded and unattainable goals designed to prevent immigration.

Now, every time someone wants to make a genuine effort to rectify this horrifying and unjust set of conditions, the Republicans scream, "No amnesty! Go back where you came from!"

As if they could themselves, go back to wherever they came here from.

We need sound and stable and practical solutions to the immigration problem created by Speaker Emeritus Gingrich. Those solutions do include amnesty. They do include setting immigration policies that take NAFTA into account. They do squelch and prevent the obstacles which make exploiting NAFTA the purview of ultra-wealthy corporations.

As the son of an immigrant, I have heard many sociopathic and unrealistic arguments, like those listed above, waged against immigration. What nonsense. Do we really need to enumerate the ways people have been successful and productive in the United States?

I myself have served in four war campaigns. I paid my way through college, without any scholarship based on ethnicity. I went on to become an Army Officer, rejoining the military after being completely out for several years. I returned to service after 9/11.

I can't say that my fellow natural born citizens, generations long inside the United States, had a significant upsurge of patriotism that promoted their return to service. On 9/11 more people died than in Pearl Harbor. How did the citizenry respond? As though it were another day. No significant increase in military recruiting, as was widely reported at the time.

In every war campaign that I've been on, there was always at least one person in a unit that I've been in who was in this country on a green card. There have often been many, like me, who were first generation Americans.

Yet, we have these irrational claims about what a burden immigrants are.

They are just as much a man as anyone else who will serve beside us in a time of crisis; for that, even by itself, they deserve our consideration and respect.

February 9, 2011 at 9:54 a.m.
wigglwagon said...

""We’re good people that really want to push ourselves forward," Celeste Nuñez, a 24-year-old immigrant from Mexico, said as she waited in a Catholic Charities office on Nolensville Pike for help completing her citizenship application. "I think they really should give us a chance, not just Hispanics but all kinds of people."

That sounds reasonable but before we go too far, I think she should explain to us where she is going to get a job without underbidding someone else. I definitely do not think she should be allowed to 'push herself forward' at the expense of a legal family. While we are at it, I think she should explain to us why she thinks she should be exempt from a law that was enacted to protect working Americans from abusive working conditions. If she should be emempted from immigration law, why shouldn't employers be exempted from minimum wage laws or overtime laws or workers' comp laws? Please, explain to us which laws should be enforced and which laws should be ignored.

February 9, 2011 at 10:08 a.m.
wigglwagon said...

"They need to give some permits to work," said Alfonso Martinez, a 26-year-old painter from Mexico who was naturalized in December. "All people want is to have drivers’ licenses and get jobs."

Why does Mr. Martinez think we need more workers? Is he unaware of the 30 million or so looking for work in this country right now?

"Yet, majorities of Tennesseans of all ages told pollsters that they favor creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants."

I cannot help but wonder if the pollsters asked Tennesseans if that path to citizenship should include future illegal immigrants? If I remember right, the last path to citizenship for illegals, endorsed by Reagan, created an onslaught of new illegals. I also wonder if the pollsters asked Tennesseans when and where we might come up with the jobs needed for the people who are here now? Just wonderin'.

February 9, 2011 at 10:37 a.m.
My2centsworth said...

I just love all these 'Politically Correct' posters and the author of this article. What a joke you all are.

Look up the definition of Immigrant: 1. a person who migrates to another country, usually for permanent residence. 2. an organism found in a new habitat.

Look up the term Illegal Immigrant:

an alien (non-citizen) who has entered the United States without government permission or stayed beyond the termination date of a visa.

Look up the term Illegal Alien:

1. a foreigner who has entered or resides in a country unlawfully or without the country's authorization. 2. a foreigner who enters the U.S. without an entry or immigrant visa, especially a person who crosses the border by avoiding inspection or who overstays the period of time allowed as a visitor, tourist, or businessperson.

NOW look up the term INVADE:

  1. To enter by force in order to conquer or pillage.
  2. To encroach or intrude on; violate:
  3. To overrun as if by invading; infest:
  4. To enter and permeate, especially harmfully.

Now that we have the definitions let us call them for what they are. Illegal Aliens, and Invaders. As an example of our politicians cowardace towards enforcement of US laws we have a huge section of of US land closed (posted as unsafe for US citizens to travel on American soil) because of Illegal Alien/Invader traffic. US closes park land (Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge) along US/Mexico border to Americans. Invaders are coming in ARMED to escort these Illegal Aliens and their drugs into this country. Where is the outrage? Where is the call to arms? Where are our National Guard that is supposed to protect our nation? Oh that is right they are fighting overseas and do not have time to protect our borders. Imagine that.

No Chas Sisk most Tenesseeans do not oppose deportations, most only oppose using our tax dollars for it. Call them what they are and let the outrage commence.

USSA is one day closer.

February 9, 2011 at 1:14 p.m.
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