A Majority of Americans Say the Border Crisis Is an 'Invasion,' Poll Says

Results come as news outlets attempt to sanitize border crisis language

Immigrants cross the Rio Grande / Reuters
August 23, 2022

More than half of all Americans believe the United States is facing an invasion at the southern border, according to a recent survey from NPR.

According to the poll, 54 percent of Americans, including 40 percent of Democrats, say it is "completely true" or "somewhat true" that the border crisis is an "invasion." Nearly three-quarters, 73 percent, of respondents said they believe the "large number of migrants apprehended at the southern border is a problem."

The results come as the United States sees the largest influx of illegal immigrants in history. More than 1.8 million migrants have been apprehended by Border Patrol on the southern border since October 2021, a new annual record. The previous record was held by the 2021 fiscal year.

Moreover, the results demonstrate a shift in how Americans view illegal immigration as an active threat to the nation’s sovereignty as news organizations such as NPR make a concerted effort to sanitize the border crisis. The Associated Press in its style guide bars news organizations from using the term "invasion" when reporting immigration-related stories. News organizations that follow the AP style guide, or base their guides on the AP's, include NPR and Politico.

The AP did not respond to a request for comment.

Americans are also significantly less likely to say that "immigrants are an important part of our American identity" than they were in 2018, according to the poll. In that year, 75 percent of Americans said they agree with the statement. Today, 56 percent of Americans agree.

Support for DACA, which gave legal status to illegal immigrants brought into the United States as minors, dropped to 51 percent. In 2018, support was at 65 percent.

NPR called the results of its poll evidence "that large numbers of Americans hold a variety of misconceptions about immigrants," such as their role in the opioid crisis and their use of welfare programs. Calling the border crisis an "invasion," NPR wrote, is evidence of "increasingly extreme rhetoric around immigration."

"There's also a theory that support for immigrants tends to fall when there is a perception of chaos at the southern border," NPR wrote.

The Atlantic published a piece in 2019 calling then-president Donald Trump’s use of "invasion" when describing high-levels of illegal immigration "racist." A year prior, a Washington Post reporter said using the word "invasion" to describe rampant illegal immigration on the southern border is identical to the hardships faced by Jewish Americans in the 20th century.

NPR itself ran a radio segment in May alleging that using the term "invasion" was largely limited to "some Republicans and immigration hard-liners." The segment also attempted to tie the use of "invasion" by those on the right to white-supremacist violence.

The AP updated its style guide as the border crisis began in 2021. The style guide's recommendations include no longer using words such as "surge" when describing high levels of illegal crossing on the southern border, even as Customs and Border Protection holds regular "surge meetings." The Washington Free Beacon has reported on how the AP's style guide changes were due to pressure from left-wing interest groups such as Futuro Media.

"Avoid imagery conjuring war or natural disaster, which could portray migrants as a negative, harmful influence," the AP's Stylebook reads. "Avoid emotive words like onslaught, tidal wave, flood, inundation, surge, invasion, army, march, sneak, and stealth."

Some Democratic lawmakers followed the AP's lead. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) said describing high levels of illegal immigration as a "surge" is "white supremacist."

Voters increasingly rank immigration as an issue they are most concerned about. Immigration is a more pressing issue facing the country than abortion, climate change, and gun control, according to an NBC News poll released earlier this month. That same poll found that a plurality of Republicans named immigration as their top issue, more than inflation or the economy.

Attempts from the AP to frame debates around immigration in favorable terms for Democrats go back nearly a decade. The outlet in 2013 ordered its reporters to stop using the term "illegal immigrant." Instead, the AP says, reporters should use "undocumented migrant" or simply "migrant."