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New poll: Immigration splits Americans

Resounding majorities of Hispanics consider illegal immigrants a boon rather than a burden and condemn Arizona's new law targeting undocumented people, according to a new poll.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Resounding majorities of Hispanics consider illegal immigrants a boon rather than a burden to the country and condemn Arizona's strict new law targeting undocumented people, according to an Associated Press-Univision Poll that spotlights sharp divides between Hispanics and others in the U.S.

The survey also found some remarkably similar views between Hispanics and non-Hispanics on the complex, emotional issue of immigration, which has gained prominence this election year. About two-thirds of both groups consider illegal immigration a serious problem, only a quarter of each think the Arizona law will ease the state's troubles and the largest portion of both populations think current limits on legal immigration should be left alone.

Even so, much of the poll — which questioned 1,001 adults of all races from the general population, plus 901 Hispanic adults — reads as if soundings were taken of two distinct worlds.

It found that 74 percent of Hispanics said the country's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants mostly contribute to society. Just 35 percent of non-Hispanics agreed with that, with 60 percent saying illegal immigrants are mostly a drain.

In addition, 67 percent of Hispanics said they oppose the Arizona statute. Just 20 percent of non-Hispanics oppose it, with 45 percent favoring it and 30 percent neutral. The law allows local police to demand citizenship papers from people they suspect of being here illegally and to detain them if they can't produce the documents.

"If I go to the convenience store for a gallon of milk, I don't carry those kinds of things," said Martin Ortiz, 37, a U.S.-born citizen and maintenance worker from San Diego. "I just slap on a pair of shorts. And a police officer notices me? Why should I get detained?"

Countering that viewpoint was Michael Doucet, 25, a technician from Houston who is white and non-Hispanic. He wants existing laws enforced and backs the new Arizona statute.

"Illegals are illegal," said Doucet. "It's not a problem with discrimination, it's not a problem with whites hating Hispanics, it is what it is. Most illegals are Hispanic."