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Giving Illegal Immigrants an Easier Path to Citizenship – Is it Time? [POLL]

Tobias Titz, Getty Images
Tobias Titz, Getty Images

A new poll out today finds that 6 in 10 Americans back granting legal status to undocumented immigrants.

It could be because the national mood is such that “if they’re here already and have put down roots in their communities, why not just allow them to stay?”

Certainly the reelection of President Obama may have something to do with this paradigm shift as well.

This is the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” mentality. It is useless to resist…or so it would seem.

According to this:

More than six in 10 Americans now favor allowing illegal immigrants to eventually become citizens, a major increase in support driven by a turnaround in Republicans’ opinions after the 2012 elections.

The finding, in a new Associated Press-GfK poll, comes as the Republican Party seeks to increase its meager support among Latino voters, who turned out in large numbers to help reelect President Obama in November.

Emboldened by the overwhelming Hispanic backing and by shifting attitudes on immigration, Obama has made overhauling immigration laws a centerpiece of his second-term agenda. In the coming weeks, he’s expected to push aggressively for ways to create an eventual pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already in this country.

The poll results suggest that the overall public, not just Hispanics, will back his efforts. Sixty-two percent of Americans now favor providing a way for illegal immigrants in the U.S. to become citizens, an increase from just 50 percent in the summer of 2010, the last time the AP polled on the question.

Yet much of the increase in support for a path to eventual citizenship has come among Republicans. A majority in the GOP — 53 percent — now favor the change. That’s up 22 percentage points from 2010. Seventy-two percent of Democrats and 55 percent of independents like the idea, similar to 2010.

The findings suggest that those GOP lawmakers weighing support for eventual legal status for illegal immigrants could be rewarded politically, not just by Democrats and independents, but also by some in their own party as well. This comes amid soul-searching in the party about how the GOP can broaden its support from Latinos, who backed Obama over Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney by 71 percent to 27 percent in November. Romney received less support from Latinos than former Republican President George W. Bush did. But his slice was on par with Bob Dole in 1996 and former President George H.W. Bush in 1992.

While some Republicans have concluded that backing comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship is becoming a political necessity, many lawmakers remain strongly opposed. And it’s far from clear whether Congress will ultimately sign off on such an approach.

But in the Senate, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is working to draft immigration legislation, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a possible 2016 presidential candidate, has offered proposals that would ultimately allow illegal immigrants to attain legal status.

One poll participant, Nick Nanos, 66, of Bellmore, N.Y., said that providing a way for illegal immigrants to become citizens would respect America’s history as a nation built by immigrants.

“We act as if our grandparents got here legally. Don’t want to ask a single Indian about that,” Nanos said in a follow-up interview. “I don’t think that most of us can solidly come to a point where our grandparents or great-grandparents or great-great-grandparents were here legally. What does that even mean?”

The poll also found strong support for Obama’s decision, announced last summer, to shield as many as 800,000 immigrants from deportation with conditions. Those affected would have to be younger than 30, would have to have been brought to the U.S. before turning 16 and would have to fulfill certain other conditions including graduation from high school or serving in the military.

Illegal immigrants covered by the order can now apply for work permits. The order bypassed Congress, which has not passed so-called DREAM Act legislation to achieve some of the same goals for younger illegal immigrants.

Sixty-three percent of Americans favor that policy, while 20 percent oppose it, and 17 percent are in between or unsure, the poll said. The policy is supported by 76 percent of Democrats, significantly stronger support than among Republicans or independents.

Hence, it’s the political ramifications of supporting legal status for illegal immigrants that drives the GOP’s shift in position. Sounds like they’re supporting it for all the wrong reasons.

However, the practical reality remains. It appears impractical to me to begin to deport all 11 million (if that’s an accurate number) illegal immigrants in this country.

I’ve never been a supporter of granting legal status to illegals and their families just because their numbers are so overwhelming that we’re left with no other option. As I’ve said at the top of the piece, it has the appearance of a reward for having committed a criminal act.

And so the quandary remains.

 

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