New Day for Immigration Reform

As President Obama takes the oath of office on Monday and the 113th Congress gets to work, momentum for immigration reform is building among voters and leaders across the political spectrum. This week alone, business, faith and law enforcement leaders have issued clear calls for Congress and the President to make reform a reality, and a new poll shows that American voters — Republicans and Democrats alike — support a better immigration process that includes a path to citizenship.
On Monday, the Evangelical Immigration Table launched the “I Was a Stranger” immigration prayer challenge, in which pastors will invite both their congregants and their members of Congress to read a passage of Scripture relating to immigrants and immigration daily for 40 days. Then, on Thursday, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas J. Donohue and Barrett Duke of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission joined other business, law enforcement and faith leaders and named immigration reform as one of their top legislative priorities in 2013.
Congress needs to catch up with the American public on a bipartisan immigration strategy. A poll released today shows that voters overwhelmingly support far-reaching changes to create an immigration process that works over the long term (see additional information below). Nearly two-thirds, including majorities of Republicans and Democrats, believe that people without documents should have the opportunity to legalize and move toward citizenship.
“Republicans and Democrats alike need to gather around a table to develop rational immigration policy that serves the interests of every American family,” said Jeb Bush Jr., chief operating officer at Jeb Bush & Associates and Member of the Board of Directors at the National Immigration Forum. “Now it is time for our national political leaders to get the cues from the American public and move forward with responsible reform — reform that ensures our security and respects the rule of law, but also acknowledges the importance of immigrants to our economy and our communities.”
“A new day has arrived in the push for legislative reform,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. “Leaders in both parties know we urgently need a better immigration strategy, and they have the support of the American public. We expect Congress to advance long-term immigration solutions in2013.”
Strong Bipartisan Support for Immigration Reform
A solid majority of U.S.voters favor common sense immigration reform that includes a path to earned citizenship for current undocumented immigrants, and strong accountability measures, according to a bipartisan poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican polling firm, and Hart Research Associates, a Democratic firm.
The national survey of 1,003 registered voters, sponsored by Service Employees International Union, America’s Voice Education Fund, and National Immigration Forum, showed voters wanting a long-term fix for the immigration system that includes a path to full citizenship for immigrants here without papers.
Almost four out of five voters said they support a system that requires immigrants to pay taxes, holds employers accountable for hiring legal workers and prevents them from exploiting immigrant labor, improves border security and ensures that undocumented immigrants have a chance to work towards citizenship.    The plan is broadly favored across partisan, ideological, regional and ethnic groups; more information is available here.
When asked directly about support for creating a path to full citizenship for immigrants versus temporary status, 87 percent of Americans said “it would be better to give people a chance to eventually earn citizenship at some point after they register for legal status, pass a background check, learn English, and pay taxes,” while just 7 percent said “they should be allowed to qualify for legal status and work in the United States but should never be given the chance to earn citizenship.”  Support for citizenship was strong across party lines, with 83% of Republicans, 91% of Democrats, and 82% of Independents choosing full integration.
Other key findings include:

  • When asked to choose between deporting undocumented immigrants “because they are taking away jobs that Americans need” versus allowing them to become legal taxpayers, “so they pay their fair share and can work toward citizenship in the future,” a solid 73 percent favored the citizenship option over deportation, which received only 22 percent.
  • When asked to choose between focusing first on securing the border versus requiring immigrants to “become legal and pay taxes, while also improving border security,” 64 percent favored the combined solution versus 31 percent for border enforcement “first.”
  • After hearing pros and cons about the complete reform package, support remained solid and strong.  While 77 percent expressed support for the plan and 14 percent said they were opposed at the outset, support rose to 80 percent and opposition stayed at 14 percent after respondents heard arguments against the proposal.
  • Voters support politicians who lean into this issue and support a fair and permanent solution.  Fully 53 percent of Americans (including 53% of Republicans) said they would be more likely to vote for their Member of Congress if he or she voted for this plan, while only 8 percent of all voters (and 8 percent of Republicans) said they would be less likely to vote for him or her.  One-third said that the Member’s vote on immigration reform wouldn’t matter either way.    

While Congress has numerous top issues on its plate, three out of four voters agree the current system is not working well and almost half of the respondents said that fixing the immigration system is a very high or high priority.
According to Geoff Garin, President, Hart Research Associates, “There is a clear message in these findings that Americans from across the political spectrum understand the need for broad-based immigration reform, and if Congress acts on a comprehensive plan the public is ready to support it.»
Said Guy Molyneux, Partner at Hart Research Associates, “For immigration reform to become a reality,Washington just needs to find as much common ground on immigration as the American people have already discovered.»
Bill McInturff, Partner and Co-Founder at Public Opinion Strategies added, “This survey tells us addressing concerns like taxes and border security helps create the foundation for a plan that many voters see as ‘accountable.’  This is particularly important to Republicans and Independents to support immigration reform.»
Jeb Bush Jr., COO at Jeb Bush & Associates and Member of the Board of Directors at the National Immigration Forum said, “The results of this poll confirm that Americans of all political stripes agree that the current patchwork of immigration policies is not working for our nation’s best interests. I’m encouraged to see that a strong majority of Republican voters recognize the need for a long term solution that includes a path to citizenship.”
According to Eliseo Medina, Secretary-Treasurer, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), “This poll confirms what we have long believed, that fixing the broken immigration system is not just a Latino priority, but also a high priority for the American people. The full package of immigration reforms, including a roadmap to citizenship, is the solution voters want and is not the third rail of politics that politicians have long feared. We look forward to a robust discussion, one that will be based on what is best forAmerica, our economy, for business and for immigrants, and not on scapegoating or wedge issue politics.”
Added Frank Sharry, Executive Director at America’s Voice Education Fund, “Those of us who have in the past been skeptical of getting Republican support are seeing signs that the GOP lawmakers may finally be catching up to the American people.  And given the strong support for broad reform from voters in both parties we think these findings will be informative and inspiring to members of Congress on both sides of the aisle.”

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