NJ News Commons Poll Finds Majority of Residents Say Undocumented Immigrants Should Stay

While a new poll finds that most New Jerseyans believe undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay in the U.S., it also shows a significant percentage believes they should be deported. NJ News Commons Director Debbie Galant told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that the poll results surprised her.

According to the NJ News Commons poll, which was conducted by SurveyUSA in Clifton for the organization, 54 percent of New Jerseyans say undocumented immigrants should be allowed to remain in the country. Galant said that is 12 percent fewer respondents that are willing to let undocumented immigrants stay in the country than in a national Quinnipiac poll released at the end of May.

Thirty-four percent of respondents in the poll released today said they wanted to see undocumented immigrants deported. Galant said that the results show immigration is a hot-button issue and reflects the fact that New Jersey has a lot of immigrants — “third in percentages, fifth in numbers I believe.”

The reason NJ News Commons started its Immigration Project, which includes the latest poll, was because the issue of immigration isn’t being talked about or written about in the press very much, Galant said.

The poll found that the more respondents knew about the Senate immigration bill, the more they were against the House passing it. “That surprised me as well because the Senate bill had stuff for both the left and the right. It was going to help people get citizenship but it was also gonna close the borders tight,” Galant said. “So that was a very elegant piece of bipartisan workmanship there. So I was really surprised that people would be so against it.”

Galant said the breakdowns between parties weren’t surprising with Democrats more in favor of letting undocumented immigrants stay in the country than Republicans and conservatives. She explained the geographic breakdown was more interesting with more people in North Jersey in favor of letting them stay — higher than the overall 54 percent the poll found. South Jersey had the next highest amount with Central Jersey having the least number of respondents willing to let undocumented immigrants remain in the country.

According to Galant, NJ News Commons will use the poll as a way to begin its research and to see how attitudes change in the future. “We have an investigative team that’s already filed Freedom of Information requests and they’re looking into detention centers and what’s going on there. And then we also have a video team of some filmmakers,” she said. “They’re going to do sort of a documentary project of talking camera straight in the face of people asking them what their lives are like. So we should be getting some really interesting reporting on it but also just storytelling.”

Galant said undocumented immigrants are often invisible, but they are sometimes found as housekeepers and landscapers. She said the NJ News Commons poll also asked respondents if they employed housekeepers and lawn workers.

“They’re invisible but they’re there,” Galant said. “Maybe we’re uncomfortable with that so we just ignore it.”