Thirty-eight percent of rural Nebraskans who responded to the 2019 Nebraska Rural Poll believe that immigrants strengthen rural Nebraska while 30% disagree.
While almost two-thirds of the respondents said they believe that undocumented immigrants should be deported, 62% said an undocumented immigrant who has been living and working and paying taxes in the United States for five years or more should be allowed to apply for citizenship.
Seventy percent agree that immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children — the so-called Dreamers — should be allowed the opportunity to become U.S. citizens if they meet certain requirements over a period of time.
Almost three-fourths of the respondents agree that the federal government should tighten U.S. borders to prevent illegal immigration.
Those are some of the results of the poll conducted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Department of Agricultural Economics in nonmetropolitan counties in March and April.
The survey was mailed to 6,260 randomly selected households; 1,776 households responded.
"Overall, there is a consistent theme from the data," said L.J. McElravy, associate professor of youth civic leadership at UNL. "Respondents believe immigrants strengthen rural Nebraska when they are more likely to interact with immigrants, whether that exposure is a result of where they live or their age."
Just more than half of persons 19 to 29 agree that immigrants strengthen rural Nebraska, compared with 31% of those 65 and older.
"The poll results mirror the tensions we see across the country in terms of immigrants and immigration," said Jason Weigle, associate extension educator with Nebraska Extension.
"Respondents tended to be evenly split across a variety of the questions.
"On balance, though, respondents wished to see a pathway for undocumented migrants who have been trying to be productive members of American society to become residents."