Americans name immigration over economy as biggest concern

MURRIETA, CA-JULY 7: Anti-immigration activists protest outside of the U.S. Border Patrol Murrieta Station in Murrieta, California on Monday, July 7, 2014. Sandy Huffaker, Getty Images

Flush with news about the staggering influx of undocumented minors on the United States' southern border, Americans now say immigration is a more vexing problem to the country than the stagnant economy.

A Gallup poll out Wednesday shows the percentage of Americans naming immigration as their biggest concern has skyrocketed to 17 percent, up from five percent in June. Breathing new life into an issue that's for months been considered dead on Capitol Hill, the figures reflect the most attention the public's offered the hot-button topic since 2006.

A year and a half after President Obama tendered his ultimately fallacious pledge to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill by the start of 2014, the debate over immigration has resurfaced due to the mounting worry about humanitarian as well as national security fouls. Recently, Mr. Obama submitted a request for more than $2 billion to shore up the 52,000 unaccompanied minors and 39,000 adults with small children - the bulk of them hailing from Central America - who have been apprehended this year at the U.S. southern border.

Federal law dictates that undocumented immigrant minors from countries other than Mexico must be detained ahead of their appearances in immigration court; meantime the United States is required to provide their health care and basic needs before releasing them to relatives or foster parents.

Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, the head of the U.S. Southern Command, has argued that in the grand scheme of protecting the U.S. border, the resources allocated him have been unrealistically inadequate to curb the flow of migrants out of countries like Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, where amid thriving crime and poverty, a growing number of parents have dispatched their children to the United States in a blind shot at a better future.

In an election year fertile with opportunities for immigration debate, it's an issue rife with partisanship. Republicans have blamed the president's flaccid approach to securing the southern border, while members of both parties have faulted the GOP-led blockade of an immigration reform bill that would strengthen border security. Nearly everyone seems to agree that the children must be treated humanely and ultimately sent back to their home countries - but they butt heads on who's to blame.

The Gallup poll Wednesday suggests the argument to seal up the border may start gaining traction. Twenty-three percent of Republicans cited immigration as a priority, compared to only 11 percent of Democrats, who've advocated for a path to citizenship over focus on securing the U.S.-Mexico line.

  • Lindsey Boerma On Twitter»

    Lindsey Boerma is senior video producer for CBSNews.com.

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