National Immigration Forum

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Yet more evidence that the public supports comprehensive immigration reform

April 30, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger


Eliseo Medina from SEIU and Wade Henderson from LLLCR


Photo by Maria Ponce, America's Voice


Today’s Senate Immigration Subcommittee hearing kicked off the debate on comprehensive immigration reform for the 111th Congress.  That advocates on both sides have been gearing up for this debate has been much in the news.  But where does the American public stand on the issue? 


Two new polls released this week asked the public what they think we should do about undocumented immigrants. 


A New York Times/CBS News poll released on Monday (April 27)  contains a question to gauge public opinion on what to do about undocumented immigrants. 


The Times and CBS posed the question,


Which comes closest to your view about illegal immigrants who are currently working in the U.S.: 1. They should be allowed to stay in their jobs, and to eventually apply for U.S. citizenship; OR 2. They should be allowed to stay in their jobs only as temporary guest workers, but NOT to apply for U.S. citizenship; OR 3. They should be required to leave their jobs and leave the U.S.
(New York Times/CBS News Poll, April 22-26,2009, question 51)


A plurality, 44%, said that they favored allowing “illegal immigrants” to stay and to eventually apply for citizenship.  Another 21% thought they should be allowed to stay and work as temporary guest workers.  Looking at African Americans, the percentage who favor allowing undocumented immigrants to stay and work rises to 55%, with just 19% saying they should leave.


Today (April 30), ABC News and the Washington Post released the results of some questions (in a poll that is being released over time) on “hot button issues.”  This poll asked a less nuanced question about what to do with the undocumented:


Would you support or oppose a program giving ILLEGAL immigrants now living in the United States the right to live here LEGALLY if they pay a fine and meet other requirements?
(ABC News/Washington Post Poll: Hot-Button Issues, April 30, 2009, question 44)


A decisive majority, 61%, said they support giving “illegal” immigrants now living here the chance to stay.  The Post/ABC analysis notes that it is not only liberals and Democrats who favor this solution—70% and 68% respectively—but so do Republicans and independents (59% in both cases), moderates (63%) and conservatives (56%).


The two polls are consistent, with the Times/CBS polling showing 65% favor allowing the undocumented to stay in the U.S. and the Post/ABC poll showing 61% support.


Despite efforts to derail reform by the likes of Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck, and the other radio and TV personalities who have shouted “amnesty!” until they are blue in the face, the public still wants reasonable solutions to this problem.  The public is pretty much in the same place as it was two years ago, when it was being tested again and again by the mainstream media during the Senate immigration reform debate.  Back then, the public also favored allowing undocumented immigrants a chance to stay. You can find links to many of these polls here.  You can also find a summary here.


The politics of immigration reform seem more complicated because those opposed to reform are very loud.  But these polls tell us, again, that comprehensive immigration reform is not only good policy, but good politics.


Oh, and one more thing.  Here’s something that I wouldn’t want to see if I were going to gamble with my political career by following the immigration restrictionists: 


And support for a path to citizenship for illegals is 31 points higher among under 30s than it is among seniors, 73 percent vs. 42 percent.
(ABC News/Washington Post Poll: Hot-Button Issues, April 30, 2009)


To be sure, those under 30 years of age are going to be visiting the voting booth a lot more times in the years ahead.

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