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67% Say States Should Be Able To Enforce Immigration Laws If Feds Are Not

In response to the Justice Department challenge of its effort to crack down on illegal immigration, Arizona has sued the federal government for failing to enforce immigration laws. Most voters continue to support Arizona's new immigration law and strongly believe states should be able to fight illegal immigration if the federal government is not.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 67% of Likely U.S. Voters - two-out-of-three - think a state should have the right to enforce immigration laws if it believes the federal government is not.enforcing them. Just 22% disagree and say states should not have that right. (To see survey question wording, click here).

Arizona is seeking reimbursement in its suit against the federal government, and nearly half (49%) believe the federal government should reimburse states for expenses incurred as a result of illegal immigration. Thirty percent (30%) say the government should not have to reimburse states, but another 21% are not sure.

Fifty-seven percent (57%) of voters continue to favor passage of an immigration law like Arizona's in their own state. Twenty-eight percent (28%) oppose such a law, and 15% are undecided about it.

This is consistent with support for the law since its passage last spring, even after a federal judge put key provisions of it on hold in July as part of the Justice Department's ongoing legal challenge. 

Most voters continue to believe the policies of the federal government encourage illegal immigration, but voters are now almost evenly divided over whether it's better to let the federal government or individual states enforce immigration laws. 

Eighty-seven percent (87%) of Republicans and 74% of voters not affiliated with either major party say states should have the right to enforce immigration laws if they believe the federal government is not. Democrats are almost evenly divided on the question.

Most Republicans also think the federal government should reimburse states for expenses due to illegal immigration, while Democrats and unaffiliated voters are more narrowly divided.

But 57% of unaffiliated voters support passage of a law like Arizona's in their state, as do 77% of Republicans. A plurality (49%) of Democrats opposes passage of a law like that in their own state.

As is frequently the case, there's a wide gap between the Political Class and Mainstream voters on these questions.  Seventy-five percent (75%) of the Political Class oppose passage of an Arizona-like law in their home state, while 69% of Mainstream voters favor such a law.

Similarly, 84% of those in the Mainstream think states should have the right to enforce immigration laws if they believe the federal government is not enforcing them. But 69% of Political Class voters say states should not have that right.

Sixty-five percent (65%) of all Likely Voters say gaining control of the border is more important in terms of immigration legislation than legalizing the status of undocumented workers already living in the United States.  This finding has remained largely unchanged for years.

Just 28% of voters supported the Justice Department challenge of Arizona's law at the time it was announced in early July of last year. 

Sixty-four percent (64%) of voters said last June that they believed the federal government by failing to enforce immigration law was more to blame for the controversy over Arizona's new statute than state officials were for passing it. 

Americans strongly believe that Mexico does not want to stop the tide of illegal immigration into the United States, and 58% think Mexico should be asked to compensate U.S. taxpayers to offset the costs related to this problem. 

Republicans continue to hold a double-digit lead over Democrats when it comes to whom voters trust more on the issue of immigration

Rasmussen Reports is an electronic media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion polling information.  We poll on a variety of topics in the fields of politics, business and lifestyle, updating our site's content on a news cycle throughout the day, everyday.

Rasmussen Reports Platinum Members get an all-access pass to polling news, analysis and insight not available to the general public.

Scott Rasmussen , president of Rasmussen Reports, has been an independent pollster for more than a decade. To learn more about our methodology, click here.

The survey of 1,000 Likely U.S. Voters was conducted on February 16-17, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

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©2011 Rasmussen Reports, LLC

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