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Half of Americans oppose immigrant detention camps, Reuters/Ipsos poll finds

Immigration has emerged as a top issue for voters, particularly Republicans, in the run-up to the Nov. 5 election. 

FILE PHOTO: Male migrants from Jordan, China, Egypt and Colombia surrender to a border patrol agent after crossing into the U.S. from Mexico in Jacumba Hot Springs, California, U.S., May 15, 2024. / REUTERS/Adrees Latif

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -   About half of U.S. voters oppose putting immigrants in the country illegally into detention camps while awaiting deportation, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll shows, suggesting Americans may be wary of harsher enforcement plans Donald Trump is considering.

Some 54 percent of registered voters opposed the use of detention camps while 36 percent supported such a move and 10 percent said they did not know or did not respond, the poll found. Still, 56 percent said most or all immigrants in the U.S. illegally should be deported. 

Republican presidential candidate Trump has made cracking down on illegal immigration a central plank of his reelection campaign against Democratic President Joe Biden. Immigration has emerged as a top issue for voters, particularly Republicans, in the run-up to the Nov. 5 election. 

The New York Times reported last year that former President Trump, if reelected, planned to build large camps to hold immigrants pending a possible deportation.

In an interview with Time Magazine published in April, Trump said he would consider using camps but that "there wouldn't be that much of a need for them" because people would be rapidly deported.

Tom Homan, a former Trump immigration official who could join a second administration, said tents would be needed as more immigrants in the U.S. illegally are arrested and held for deportation, exceeding existing detention space.

"We're going to have to hold them someplace," he said in an interview.

Homan said the tents would adhere to detention standards set by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and that they would not be "concentration camps."

Homan said that National Guard troops could potentially support deportation operations but that law enforcement officers would need to make arrests.

Trump campaign spokesperson Karoline Leavitt did not comment on the possible use of camps in a statement to Reuters but said Trump would "marshal every federal and state power necessary to institute the largest deportation operation in American history."

Biden defeated Trump in 2020 vowing to reverse many of Trump's hardline immigration policies but struggled with record numbers of migrants caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. Biden has toughened his approach to the border in the run-up to the election.

Biden campaign spokesperson Maca Casado said in a statement that Americans "want border security and immigration solutions, not the cruel, ineffective chaos Donald Trump is offering." 

ICE stepped up deportations at the end of last year, with 66,000 people removed from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, 2023, according to agency statistics, a far more aggressive pace than other years under Biden.

Some 85 percent of Republican voters in the Reuters/Ipsos poll said most or all immigrants in the U.S. illegally should be deported, compared to 26 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of independents.

But fewer voters agreed with a statement that immigrants in the country illegally should be arrested and put in detention camps while awaiting deportation hearings. 

Some 62 percent of registered Republican said they agreed, compared to 12 percent of Democrats and 35 percent of independents. 

The poll, conducted online, surveyed 3,208 registered voters nationwide. It had margins of error of about 2 percentage points for responses from all registered voters, about 3 points for registered Republicans and Democrats and about 4 points for independents.

 (Reporting by Ted Hesson and Jason Lange; Editing by Scott Malone and Deepa Babington)
 

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