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SALT LAKE CITY — An overwhelming majority of Utahns want President-elect Donald Trump to keep his promise to deport undocumented immigrants who have criminal records, a new poll shows.
Seventy-five percent of Utahns either strongly or somewhat support Trump's plan to deport undocumented immigrants with criminal records, according to a UtahPolicy.com poll released Tuesday.
Of 614 registered Utah voters who responded to the Dan Jones & Associates survey conducted Dec. 8-12, 46 percent said they strongly support Trump's plan, while 29 percent said they somewhat support the plan.
Thirteen percent said they somewhat oppose it, 9 percent said they strongly oppose it, and 2 percent were undecided. The poll had a 3.95 percent margin of error.
The poll's results got mixed reactions among immigration advocates, civil liberty groups and conservative leaders.
Brandy Farmer, president of Centro Civico Mexicano, Utah's oldest nonprofit Hispanic organization, said the poll left her feeling "disappointed," expecting a more sympathetic culture in a state known for its welcoming nature.
"It surprises me that (Utahns) are not more sensitive to families," Farmer said, pointing out that many Utah youths serve missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, learning acceptance and respect for cultures worldwide.
James Evans, chairman of the Utah Republican Party, was unsurprised by the poll, which he said depicts a sentiment that "will hold up nationwide."
"It's just basic common sense," Evans said. "I don't think any community wants a criminal element in their community. And to add that you shouldn't even be here to begin with because you came illegally, it's hard to justify why you should remain in this country."
Evans said the poll simply shows Utahns are frustrated with the nation's current immigration policies and are supportive of the plan Trump has put forth to create change.
Trump plan vs. Obama policy
Bradford R. Drake, executive director of Catholic Community Services, a faith-based organization with a stated mission to help those in need regardless of religion or personal circumstance, said President Barak Obama's administration has already been deporting undocumented immigrants with criminal backgrounds.
Deportation, Drake said, is an oversimplistic and inhumane answer to a complicated problem — a solution that may be appropriate for repeated or particularly problematic offenders, but not immigrants who have minor offenses.
"People are not seeing the real issue," he said. "We need comprehensive immigration reform. We need to figure out a better, more human way to deal with the immigration issue we have in this country."
Anna Thomas, spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, agreed that Trump's promise to deport undocumented immigrants with criminal backgrounds "doesn't sound much different" from the Obama administration's current policies, which she said has resulted in "hundreds of thousands of deportations every year."
People are not seeing the real issue. We need comprehensive immigration reform. We need to figure out a better, more human way to deal with the immigration issue we have in this country.
–Bradford R. Drake, Catholic Community Services
It's a practice the ACLU strongly opposes, Thomas said, because "the Constitution guarantees certain basic rights to all people in the U.S., regardless of citizenship, and regardless of what offenses they may be accused of committing."
"Even though these policies ostensibly targeted only people who had been convicted of dangerous crimes, many individuals who posed no significant public safety threat were subject to detention and deportation," she said.
Thomas noted that the poll only asked if respondents would support a plan to deport undocumented immigrants with criminal records, without describing what that plan would be.
"Stoking fear of criminals is an easy way to elicit support from people who are concerned about public safety in general, while overlooking the fact that the vast majority of undocumented individuals have committed only minor — if any — offenses," she said. "Our undocumented neighbors pose no greater risk to public safety than those of us who were born here."
But Evans said Trump's deportation plan specifically pinpoints "the criminal element," and the "rhetoric" that deportation is inhumane or harsh "doesn't stand up to basic scrutiny."
"If you commit a crime and been sent to jail or prison, you've already separated yourself from your family," he said. "That's part of the life of a criminal."