The Supreme Court May Let Trump End DACA. Here’s What the Public Thinks About It.

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It increasingly looks like the Supreme Court’s conservative majority will allow the Trump administration to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, according to close observers of the court.

Legal arguments aside, polls show that DACA — which has shielded from deportation roughly 700,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children — enjoys overwhelming popular support. Allowing it to end would put the court out of step with trends in national public opinion, which has recently become more sympathetic to immigration than at any point in recorded history.

But the voters who pay the closest attention to immigration tend to be Republicans, and they hold much more conservative views on this issue. Just before the 2018 midterm elections, a Pew survey found that Republican voters were four times as likely as Democratic voters to say illegal immigration was a very big problem: 75 percent of Republicans said it was, compared to 19 percent of Democrats.

The public’s views on immigration have gradually become more liberal over all in recent years, even as President Trump has made his opposition to immigration a central component of his political persona.

In the past two years, three quarters of Gallup respondents have said that immigration is generally a good thing — more than ever before recorded. By a double-digit margin, Americans are more likely to say that immigrants help the economy rather than hurt it, Gallup found.

DACA enjoys broader consensus than almost any other proposed immigration policy. A Marquette Law School poll found in September that 53 percent of voters nationwide would oppose a Supreme Court decision to strike down the program, while 37 percent would favor it. Before the case reached the Supreme Court, 84 percent of Americans said in a March 2018 Politico/Harvard University poll that they generally supported DACA. And in another Politico/Harvard poll, from December of that year, 66 percent of respondents said it was “extremely important” that Congress renew the program.

All of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have expressed support for DACA. People who are sympathetic to the Dreamers — undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children — now make up a sizable chunk of the electorate in swing states like Arizona, Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania. And the Hispanic population is climbing especially quickly in some competitive Southern states; it roughly doubled from 2000 to 2010 in North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia.

Most Americans seem comfortable with these developments. The share of the country that said immigration levels should be increased hit 30 percent earlier this year, the highest number since Gallup started asking the question in the 1960s. All told, more than three in five Americans now say that immigration levels should either rise or remain where they are.

Daniel Herrera, a communications consultant at the left-leaning Raben Group, said that if DACA ends, it could propel a youth mobilization campaign similar to the one that led to the program’s passage in the first place.

“Where DACA does come into play is: How well are Dreamers and Dreamer allies going to mobilize people who may not vote?” he said.

“It’s about your traditional get-out-the vote operations, where Dreamers are the public face of a campaign to get the youth vote out,” he added. “That’s how you’re going to mobilize youth voters, because theoretically they’ll see themselves in those Dreamers and be more motivated to vote.”

But there is a deeper partisan rift on immigration than on almost any other issue. Eighty-two percent of Democrats in a September Pew poll said it was important for the government to build a path to citizenship for immigrants who are currently in the country illegally, but just 48 percent of Republicans did.

While 58 percent of all Americans said in a CNN poll last month that they disapproved of Mr. Trump’s handling of immigration, that number plunged to just 12 percent among Republicans. Eighty-six percent of Republicans approved of how he has handled the issue.

Immigration may be more of a motivating issue for the Republican base than the Democratic one. Forty-six percent of liberal Democrats rank building a path to citizenship as “very important,” but a larger share of conservative Republicans — fully six in 10 — say the opposite: that it is very important for the government to increase deportations of immigrants who have entered the United States illegally.

“When you just look at conservative Republicans, you can see that a hard-line approach to immigration is broadly supported — and conservatives make up two thirds of all Republicans,” said Carroll Doherty, an analyst at Pew Research Center. “That shows you how those issues have resonated with the Trump base.”

Still, Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster, said that even many voters who support tough immigration policies often do not strongly favor ending DACA. “The first step is to distinguish between attitudes about DACA and attitudes about immigration overall: Consistently, Americans on the order of 80 percent have supported allowing the DACA kids to stay,” he said.

If the Supreme Court were to allow the Trump administration to end DACA, Mr. Ayres said, the focus would shift to the legislative branch. He argued that this could provide an opportunity for Republicans to push through one of their immigration-related goals, such as increased border security, in exchange for restoring DACA.

“What it does is increase pressure on Congress to put DACA legalization together with border security, and pass a limited immigration reform — with just those two components — that gives something to both sides,” he said.

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