Majority of Southwest residents polled oppose Trump immigration policies, distrust border agents

Border Report

TOPSHOT – US President Donald Trump visits the US-Mexico border fence in Otay Mesa, California on September 18, 2019. (Photo by Nicholas KAMM / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)

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McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — A poll of U.S. residents in the four Southwestern border states released Wednesday shows a majority disagree with how President Donald Trump is handling border issues and the way asylum-seekers are treated, and many lack trust in Border Patrol agents.

The poll of 2,750 residents from California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas was conducted by the U.S. Immigration Policy Center of the University of California-San Diego from Oct. 8-22. It was released to media on a national conference call held by the Southern Border Communities Coalition.

The poll found that 56.3% polled strongly disapprove or disapprove of the way the president is handling issues at the U.S.-Mexico border, while 36% strongly approve or approve of Trump’s methods.

The majority of those polled also said they wanted more humanitarian efforts provided for migrants seeking asylum in the United States. This included 63.2% saying they want alternatives to immigration detention for families; 83% want food and water given to people in distress, regardless their immigration status; and 67% prefer that unaccompanied migrant children are placed with child welfare specialists, not border or immigration enforcement officials.

“This poll demonstrates that the majority of voters want a new approach to border governance,” said Vicki Gaubeca, director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition.

John Hostettler, vice president of federal affairs and director of Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Right on Immigration initiative, responded to the poll saying Congress needs to act to reform immigration.

“No one should be surprised that Americans, especially those in border states, are frustrated with our broken immigration system. Washington refuses to secure the border and implement an immigration system that works in America’s interest. The President, for his part, should be commended for taking the initiative to remove incentives for people to come here illegally, make progress on the wall, and target the cartels that are making millions off of human trafficking. Congress needs to step up now and provide the resources to make sure the border is secure and start working on a solution for our broken system,” Hostettler wrote in an email to Border Report.

The President, for his part, should be commended for taking the initiative to remove incentives for people to come here illegally, make progress on the wall, and target the cartels that are making millions off of human trafficking. Congress needs to step up now.”

John Hostettler, Texas Public Policy Foundation

The poll also found that an overwhelming majority — 77% — want laws requiring Border Patrol officials to have reasonable suspicion and probable cause before stopping and searching individuals in the interior of the United States.

And 43.4% of respondents said they trust only “a
little” or “none at all” that Border Patrol officials who abuse their authority will be held accountable.

 There was “a general lack of trust in the Border Patrol agency, which includes a lack of trust that Border Patrol officials will protect the rights and civil liberties of all people, including immigrants,” said Tom Wong, director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Center, which developed the poll.

Wong served as an adviser to the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders under President Barack Obama. He added that the poll found that Border Patrol agents “need to be held accountable for their abuses.”

Better humanitarian treatment of migrants

The majority of Americans polled, 58.6%, said they believe asylum-seekers fleeing persecution, including women and children, should be allowed to enter the United States to ensure their safety while their asylum case is pending, while 41% said they should remain in Mexico.

The policy, formally called Migrant Protection Protocols, was enacted in 2019 by the Trump administration, first in San Diego and then in El Paso, Texas. It was enacted in South Texas in mid-July.

Currently, there are nearly 2,000 asylum-seekers, most from Central America, living homeless in a tent city on the base of the Gateway International Bridge in Matamoros, Mexico, across the border from Brownsville, Texas.

“They are waiting in tent cities with a lack of water, access to toilets and lack of access to food,” said Christina Patiño Houle of the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network.

Border Report has visited the tent encampment several times recently. On Thursday, as temperatures dipped into the 40s, several groups of migrants banded together to make hot soup on stoves they fashioned from mud on the banks of the Rio Grande.

Volunteers from Texas and Mexico bring meals twice a day, as well as clothing and blankets. But a lice outbreak plagues children of the camp, health officials say, and the migrants are preyed upon by drug cartels and street gangs.

Read a recent Border Report story on drug cartels preying on MPPs.

Last Friday, Matamoros officials tried to round up the migrants’ children and forcibly take them to a shelter two miles in the interior of the city, but federal Mexican officials intervened and stopped the removal.

Read a Border Report story on the round up attempt here.

This research shows policymakers should listen to the people on the front-line.”

– Frank Sharry, America’s Voice

Frank Sharry, the executive director of the immigration reform group America’s Voice in Washington, D.C., said Wednesday that he hopes policymakers on Capitol Hill will heed the poll’s results. “People in Washington, D.C., for too long have debated what’s best for border policies and border communities without listening to people whose lives are directly affected, so I think this research shows policymakers should listen to the people on the frontline.”

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at

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