Poll: Many Americans believe illegal immigration is threatening American way of life

Being American

EL PASO, Texas - The battle on Capitol Hill over immigration continues with the fate of Dreamers - immigrants brought here illegally as children - still up in the air.

With Democratic leaders, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, saying Dreamers are American and El Paso Congressman Beto O'Rourke posting on Facebook Dreamers are as American as his three kids, ABC-7 asked some El Pasoans, "What does it mean to be American?" 

"America has grown with a lot of people that have come from other countries," said Borderland resident Natalia Samaniego, the wife of the late sheriff Leo Samaniego.

Natalia told ABC-7, she's lived on both sides of the border, but "the minute I crossed the river, I loved America. My children were born here, my husband served in the community for years and years."

So what does it mean to be American? Do you have to be born here? Do you have to be here legally or simply embrace and contribute to the country?

A nationwide poll conducted by last year by the Associated Press' NORC Center for Public Affairs research found 47 percent of Americans believe illegal immigration is threatening to the American way of life, while 15 percent think legal immigration threatens it. 

The poll also found 71 percent feel the US is losing its national identity, or the beliefs and values the country represents.  

57 percent said the US should be a country with an essential culture immigrants adopt when they arrive while 42 percent think the culture of the country should change when new people arrive. 

"I know some people who were not born here and turned out to be Americans," said El Pasoan Dereef Greene, who doesn't believe you need to be born in the US to be American but feels it is important to contribute, just like he did.

"I fought two wars for my country. I got shot at and it didn't bother me a bit," Greene said, "I was pleased to do it because that's what was expected of me."

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