NPR/Ipsos Poll: Majority of Americans Believe There’s an ‘Invasion’ at the Southwest Border

As support for immigration falls, and the ‘wall’ becomes more popular; ironically, non-enforcement can be ‘anti-immigrant’

By Andrew R. Arthur on August 19, 2022

On August 18, NPR’s “Morning Edition” ran the results of a poll the outlet conducted with research outfit Ipsos on respondents’ perceptions of immigration. More than half (53 percent) believe it is either wholly or partially true that there is an “invasion” occurring at the Southwest border, while support for immigration is falling and a border “wall” is becoming more popular. That poll also reveals the toll “Biden’s Border Fiasco” is inflicting on Americans’ support for immigration.

“Invasion”. That poll was conducted between July 28 and 29, surveying 1,116 U.S. adults. As Ipsos described its findings, “most” Americans are “buying into the idea of ‘invasion’ at the southern border”, itself a form of “spin”. When was the last time that you heard a polling outfit talk about how many citizens are “buying into the idea” of a second Biden presidency, for example?

That said, 28 percent of respondents believe that it’s “completely true” that an invasion is occurring at the border, including 51 percent of Republicans, 24 percent of independents, and 12 percent of Democrats.

An additional 25 percent of respondents opined that it was “somewhat true” that there is an invasion at the U.S.-Mexico line. Most troubling for the administration, that includes 29 percent of Democrats, as well as 25 percent of Republicans and 23 percent of independents.

Nineteen percent of respondents dismissed the idea of an invasion as “completely false”, with Democrats leading the way at 34 percent, independents next at 18 percent, and Republicans at 8 percent. Twenty-seven percent “don’t know”: 36 percent of independents, 25 percent of Democrats, and 16 percent of Republicans.

The midterm congressional elections are less than 90 days away, so this spells trouble for the president and his fellow partisans, and an opportunity for the GOP (if they were willing to seize it).

Immigration is an issue that stirs Republicans to vote, but it will be the undecided independents who will move the needle in tight races, and they are more than twice as likely to view the chaos at the Southwest border as an invasion than not.

Worse, however, Democrats are overall more likely to entertain the idea of a border invasion than to dismiss it out of hand, by a 41 percent to 34 percent margin. That likely doesn’t matter much to “progressives” or casual Democrats in Vermont or Minnesota, but there is a major Senate race in Arizona and incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) likely doesn’t want to be tied to such impressions about his state’s border with Mexico.

Declining Support for Immigration. That poll also reveals declining support among Americans for immigration. While 56 percent of respondents agreed that “immigrants are an important part of our American identity”, that’s down from May 2021, when 62 percent took that position, and way down from February 2018, when 75 percent agreed.

Similarly, just over half (51 percent) believed that “Dreamers” — aliens brought to the United States as children and here illegally — should be given legal status. That’s a drop from 59 percent in July 2020, and from 65 percent in February 2018. That said, it has been static since May 2021, when again 51 percent were in favor of amnesty for Dreamers.

Support for a wall or fence along the Southwest border is also growing, with 46 percent in the latest Ipsos poll in favor of such barriers, up slightly from 45 percent in May 2021, but a big jump from the 38 percent who agreed in February 2018.

Barbara Jordan Vindicated, Again. NPR can’t figure out why Americans responded in this manner, naively stating: “It's not clear why those numbers have shifted.” For her part, Ipsos’ Mallory Newall “suspects the explanation is tied to broader concerns about inflation and the economy”, while the outlet itself notes: “There's also a theory that support for immigrants tends to fall when there is a perception of chaos at the southern border.”

“Gravity” is technically a “theory”, but don’t test it out by jumping from an airplane without a parachute. And, with due respect to Newall, if “broader concerns about inflation and the economy” were driving these numbers, why would support for immigrants be lower now than during the depths of Covid-19 in the summer of 2020?

As I noted recently in my analysis of similar polling numbers, civil-rights icon Barbara Jordan and then-chairwoman of the federal Commission on Immigration Reform warned in 1994 that popular support for immigration would so decline if the government couldn’t keep illegal immigration in check:

If we cannot control illegal immigration, we cannot sustain our national interest in legal immigration. Those who come here illegally, and those who hire them, will destroy the credibility of our immigration policies and their implementation. In the course of that, I fear, they will destroy our commitment to immigration itself.

Illegal immigration has never been “less controlled” than it is right now. In fact, with two months to go in the fiscal year, Border Patrol has already apprehended more illegal migrants at the Southwest border in FY 2022 than in any previous year, already breaking the dubious apprehension record set by Biden in FY 2021.

Why can’t NPR just admit these facts? Remember in March 2021 when the Washington Post contended “The migrant ‘surge’ at the U.S. southern border is actually a predictable pattern”? Those were the findings of “experts”, and thus likely more than a “theory”, according to Morning Edition. Or when Biden himself proclaimed that month:

The truth of the matter is, nothing has changed. As many people came — 28 percent increase in children to the border in my administration. Thirty-one percent in 2019 before the pandemic in the Trump administration ... It happens every single solitary year. There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months of January, February, March — it happens every year.

Both of those assertions were demonstrably wrong, but both the experts and the president advanced them. Logic should not take a holiday simply because the left-leaning (and taxpayer-supported) NPR doesn’t like the logical results.

Nor does it serve the public that, again, helps fund its operations, or the immigrants themselves. As Jordan herself stated, “we disagree ... with those who label our efforts to control illegal immigration as somehow inherently anti-immigrant. Unlawful immigration is unacceptable.”

Immigration is good but controlling immigration is essential (and not “anti-immigrant”), too, if for no other reason than to guarantee that support stays strong by ensuring that immigration is in the national interest. As these numbers suggest, the American people question whether that is still true.

Invasion — or “Invitation”? All of that said, a majority of Americans likely believe there’s an invasion at the Southwest border in part because, as noted, the number of illegal entrants is massive by any historical standard, but also because the Biden administration — which once promised to “bring transparency and truth back to government” — is hiding its own role in this debacle.

In just 18 months under Biden, Border Patrol agents at the Southwest border have apprehended close to as many illegal entrants as during the full 96 months of the “Obama-Biden” administration. If current trends continue (and there is no reason to assume they won’t), Biden’s border total will beat his old boss’ by the middle of September.

That leaves Americans to wonder why this is happening now. Opinion polls show low support for Biden’s handling of the border, suggesting that they blame him for not doing more there, but I doubt they realize that the administration is spurring this humanitarian disaster.

How? Shortly after taking office, Biden ditched nearly all of the successful policies his predecessor implemented to bring the border under control.

That includes the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), better known as “Remain in Mexico”. Trump implemented MPP in 2019 in response to a then-“border emergency” at the Southwest border, and it was an effective response.

DHS determined in its October 2019 assessment of the program that MPP was “an indispensable tool in addressing the ongoing crisis at the southern border and restoring integrity to the immigration system”, particularly as related to alien families.

“Indispensable” is defined as “absolutely necessary” and “not subject to being set aside or neglected”, but Biden has not only eagerly cast the program aside, his DHS secretary has twice tried to kill it, and his administration has fought state efforts — successfully to this point — to terminate it.

The same is true of CDC orders directing the expulsion of illegal entrants at the border, issued under Title 42 of the U.S. Code in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Even though DHS warns that up to 18,000 migrants will enter the United States daily once Title 42 ends, Biden is fighting a federal district court injunction that requires the administration to keep the CDC orders going.

Why would Biden want to end an “indispensable” MPP, and terminate Title 42 even if that means that the number of illegal entrants will more than double from already historic highs?

Because, as his DHS secretary explained in May, the Biden administration’s objective is not reducing “the total number of illegal immigrants coming across the southern border”.

Rather, “the objective of the Biden administration” is “to make sure that we have safe, orderly, and legal pathways for individuals to be able to access our legal system”, that is, to ensure that every migrant who makes it here can apply for asylum, regardless of the strength of their claim or how long it takes to hear it.

The resulting surge is not an “invasion” — it’s an “invitation” to enter illegally that tens of thousands of foreign nationals are accepting every month. The administration is not ineffective in its border efforts; to the contrary, the results at the U.S.-Mexico line speak for themselves.

That said, the people working in the West Wing are smarter and more compassionate than the folks whom they purportedly serve (or at least think they are), so they can’t just come out and tell the less-enlightened what they are doing as openly as the secretary did in May.

The problem, as this poll reveals, is that in its efforts to throw the nation’s Southwest border open to all comers, the Biden administration is helping to stir a backlash that could, and probably will, adversely affect millions of would-be legal immigrants for years to come. Enforcement is not “anti-immigrant”, but sometimes ironically non-enforcement is.