WASHINGTON - MARCH 27: A protester holds an American flag and a Mexican flag while participating in a protest on the west front of the U.S. Capitol March 27, 2006 in Washington, DC. Thousands of immigration advocates rallied on Capitol Hill to protest the immigration bill that is before Congress. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Immigration policy has long been a divisive issue in politics, but no state has more pointedly confronted the problem of illegals in this country than Arizona.
Arizona's passing of a sweeping anti-illegal immigration law has stirred passions on both sides of the debate and a new NBC/MSNBC/Telemundo poll shows that the nation is sharply divided on the legislation, particularly among white and Latino citizens.
Across NBC's network of city websites, the conversation on immigration policy was active with users weighing in with their thoughts via Facebook and Twitter. While there is no clear answer on how to approach the issue of immigration, there is no doubt that America remains "A Nation Divided."
In New York, viewers agreed that immigration was the foundation of this country, but insisted it was done legally.
"There are legal ways to do things [and] there are illegal ways to do things," Jim Hershey wrote via Facebook. "One has to wonder why the streets are not filled with protesting bank robbers, all holding up American flags and marching against oppression by the government.”
That sentiment was echoed in Connecticut where the audience fixated on the notion that undocumented immigrants were taking jobs away from citizens.
"Everyone can come here if they want to as long as they do it legally," Connor Raymond wrote on Facebook. "They're taking our jobs."
"Arrest and deport anyone here illegally, but provide a proper channel for immigration to happen so we can collect some taxes on these workers," Brian Cummiskey wrote.
Miami, with its Latino rich population, saw a less polite back-and-forth on the topic.
“America’s racist roots are showing again!” Lee Glick wrote.
Gary Wood, posting in all caps, applauded Arizona and urged "THE REST OF THE STATES [TO] PASS THE SAME LAWS ARIZONA HAS. IF THEY ARE NOT CITIZENS OF THE US SEND THEM HOME WHEREVER IT MAY BE!!!"
Andres responded: "Instead of ridiculing us Hispanics these anti-Latin jerks should post on the highway a sign thanking Hispanics for building and helping to create this great nation we all live in.”
"Police can act as immigration officers and stop people on the street because they suspect that they look ‘illegal’ and what does that mean... that they look Hispanic!! Its called racial profiling,” Liz Sanchez wrote on Facebook.
In Dallas, Jeanine M. Hawkins wrote that the Arizona law is an improper response to the problems associated with immigration in the U.S.
"We need to force the Federal government to fix the process to come here legally - it needs to be timely, efficient and effective," she wrote. "To pass laws at other levels to make up for the Federal failings is putting the burden in the wrong place and letting the Federal government continue to avoid its responsibilities without consequence."
A user in Washington DC agreed with some law enforcement officials who feared the new law will hamper police work. "If this policy is implemented those who are already reluctant to speak to the police will absolutely shut down. And they will become even bigger victims of crime," the anonymous user wrote.
Twitter user @JoeKlemmer summed up the debate thusly: "Legal immigration: GOOD. Illegal immigration: BAD."
On the West Coast, one local resident's opinion was as varied as California's biggest cities are themselves.
In the Bay Area, one user offered: "Wouldn't it be nice to stop all the posturing and have a real discussion? I don't see long lines to take the jobs in our nation's produce fields. I don't hear the outcry about illegals that overstay their visas. This not a simple issue and won't be solved with fences, guns, or BS."
Christina Low, of Los Angeles, said "everyone can come here if they want to as long as they do it legally."
San Diego, a city that shares a border with Mexico, saw a heated debate among locals that revolved around identity.
"I did not cross the border the border crossed me," wrote Vinnie Lopez. "3rd generation san diegan."
John Keasler asked if something more than immigration was in play. "Is this about immigration or the economy? It seems that we are blaming an ethic group for all the economic problems of our country rather than taking responsibility for them ourselves."
As is expected with all sensitive subjects, audience members' opinions ranged from thoughtful to outrageous and intolerant. Though there was no consensus, a large group of NBC viewers seemed to gravitate away from supporting or rejecting Arizona's new law.
Instead, they rallied around an idea rooted in the middle-ground and expressed by San Diego reader Scott Quinnan.
"I have no problem with immigration," he wrote. "As long as it is done legally."