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Immigration is a complicated hot button issue. Voters views are complicated too

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

So we've just heard a complicated story about immigration, which is the nature of the issue we've been exploring all week. It's the story of America, and it touches millions of lives. And the views of many voters are also complicated. And Steve, you've been talking with some of those voters.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Yeah.

FADEL: How and where did you talk to people?

INSKEEP: Well, I knocked on doors, which is a thing that I do in every election. I just pick politically interesting neighborhoods, and whoever answers the door, that's my story. And in this case, we talked to people in a couple of swing states - suburban Tucson, Ariz., and suburban Philadelphia, Pa.

FADEL: Now, polls show a really stark partisan divide on this issue. Lots of Republicans worry about immigration. Lots of Democrats don't. Did your door-knocking capture anything different?

INSKEEP: Oh, absolutely. I mean, politicians have very simple narratives, very emotional narratives on this issue. But people talk about this issue differently. I met Bob Romero. He's a former city councilman. He's in South Tucson, Arizona. He's got a Mexican family background, working-class neighborhood, immigrant neighborhood, lots of small homes, and it's a blue area - voted for Biden. And Romero's no fan of Donald Trump, but there was this one issue that he brought up.

BOB ROMERO: I'm a Democrat. Believe it or not, Mr. Trump had the right idea of putting a wall up. That being said, it probably could have helped a lot - limit the people coming in. If they want to come in, they can come in legally. They don't have to come in illegally.

INSKEEP: Doesn't like people breaking the rules, and Romero said immigration is an issue for him along with national defense. He is undecided how to vote this fall. He says Biden's been a good president, but he's really old. Doesn't like Trump, except for that thing about the wall.

FADEL: Yeah, they're a few years apart. Is Romero an outlier?

INSKEEP: He's not the only such voter we found. In fact, in the same neighborhood around the corner, and we met another man, Mexican American, voted for Trump once. Decided that was a mistake because he feels Trump stands for white power. But this man himself is also worried about immigrants getting some kind of sweet deal. He imagined things about his neighbors.

Now, to be fair, we also met Democrats who said, come on. Immigrants made America. This is...

FADEL: Yeah.

INSKEEP: ...All fearmongering. But in unscientific interviews, you find a lot of unpredictable views.

FADEL: What did you hear from right-leaning voters?

INSKEEP: Well, we talked with several of them around Folsom, which is a suburb of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. And this is a place that voted very narrowly for Donald Trump. And one of the people whose door we knocked on was Lauren (ph). She's a nurse, asked us to use her first name only so she could speak freely. And she seems like a classic swing voter. Hillary Clinton in 2016, couldn't remember, she said, who she voted for in 2020. And as for 2024, she's got it figured out. Here's some of our conversation.

LAUREN: I will be voting for Trump.

INSKEEP: You'll be voting for Trump.

LAUREN: Absolutely.

INSKEEP: Tell me more.

LAUREN: Because I think he did much more for the economy. And I think Biden has dementia and somebody needs to remove him. And I liked him prior to this. I'm very disappointed in what's happened. And I think Trump's an idiot when he speaks. So if that's the best we can do, then that's what we have to do.

INSKEEP: Now, we've done lots of reporting about the actual status of the economy or Biden's age and other things. There's a lot we could say about that. But here we're focused on the fact that she's a Trump voter. I informed her of Trump's signature policy proposal regarding immigration, which is a mass deportation, and she could hardly reject it fast enough.

Trump has a thing where he says, if he wins again, he wants to do the largest deportation in history. And send, we assume, millions of people out...

LAUREN: Yeah, I don't really agree with that. I think that's horrible.

INSKEEP: That's a common view in our unscientific interviews. Multiple people who support Trump were taken by surprise by that policy.

FADEL: But doesn't Trump talk about this mass deportation at his rallies?

INSKEEP: Yeah, his core voters surely know, but people who don't go to the rallies were, in some cases really taken aback and didn't agree with it at all.

FADEL: All right. Thanks, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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