YUMA, AZ - MARCH 17: U.S. Customs and Border Protection border patrol agent Ben Vik talks on his radio as he pursues illegal immigrants at sunset on the California side of the Colorado River on March 17, 2006 near Yuma, Arizona. As Congress begins a new battle over immigration policy, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) border patrol agents in Arizona are struggling to control undocumented immigrants that were pushed into the region by the 1990?s border crack-down in California called Operation Gatekeeper. A recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center using Census Bureau data estimates that the United States currently has an illegal immigrant population of 11.5 million to 12 million, about one-third of them arriving within the past 10 years. More than half are from Mexico. Ironically, beefed-up border patrols and increased security are reportedly having the unintended result of deterring many from returning to their country of origin. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
As President Barack Obama plans to send 1200 National Guard troops to help stop the flow of illegal immigrants and drug trafficking from Mexico into border communities like San Diego, a new poll reflects how America is divided on the issue of immigration.
The NBC News/MSNBC/Telemundo poll released Wednesday found 6 in 10 Americans support the Arizona law - but there's a big racial divide: 70 percent of whites like it - but just under a third of Latinos.
As for the job President Obama is doing on immigration, only 32 percent of the public approve.
What's fueling the debate is the President's latest order for 1200 National Guard troops to boost security along the U.S. Mexico border to work on surveillance, reconnaissance, intelligence and blocking drug trafficking..
The president is looking to request $500 million for border protection and law enforcement activities. The move would preempt Republican plans to try to force votes on such a deployment.
In 2006, President George W. Bush sent thousands of troops to the border to perform support duties that tie up immigration agents. That program has since ended and politicians in border states have called for troops to be sent there again.
More than 20,000 Border Patrol agents are deployed now, mostly along the southern border.
U.S. Senator John McCain said Tuesday that he appreciates the effort but it's still not enough to protect our country from illegal immigration.
McCain said we need 6,000 troops and $1 billion.
Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever, whose jurisdiction includes about 80 miles of the Arizona-Mexico border, said 1,200 soldiers might make a difference in a smaller portion of the border. "But if you spread it across the border, it's like spitting into the wind," Dever said.
Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, a Democrat who has prosecuted rings of drug and immigrant smugglers, said the planned deployment was a good first step, but believes that the president's plan should evolve to include more troops and more authority for the soldiers.
"I'll take what we can get," Goddard said. "Again, I don't think this is the final response."
The Mexican government issued a statement saying it hoped the troops would be used to fight drug cartels and not enforce immigration laws. Mexico has traditionally objected to the use of the military to control illegal immigration.
As for the controversial Arizona law regarding immigration -- McCain had this to say: “I support that legislation because the Arizona governor and legislature acted in frustration because of the federal government's failure to carry out its responsibilities to secure our border."
All day today, NBC news is taking an in-depth look at the on-going debate about immigration in America with a special one-day series called "A Nation Divided".
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