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Does The American Public Support Comprehensive Immigration Reform?

– Posted in: Immigration Reform

As a Hemet immigration attorney, I witnessed a huge social division appear, almost overnight, between immigration reform supporters and opponents following the local city council’s decision to endorse Arizona SB 1070.

Yet, when I’ve had a chance to speak rationally to opponents, I learn most of their disagreement with immigration reform is based on distorted facts.  Once I am able to clarify such misunderstandings, I find opponents less resistant to programs granting immigrants a path to legalization.

My observation that many immigration reform opponents are not absolutely against positive immigration reform experience coincides with an article appearing in the Huffington Post earlier this week.

Public Anger Over Immigration Reform

In “On Immigration, Voters Get It, Politicians Don’t”, Frank Sharry dispels the notion that most Americans think immigration reform should follow a law enforcement-only approach.

In Sharry’s view, much of the the anger expressed about immigration issues is based on a three-step reasoning process:

  • The majority of American citizens are fed-up and frustrated with our federal government’s failure to solve immigration problems
  • Only a small percentage of American citizens are angry at immigrants
  • The frustration with the federal government’s inability to shape immigration reform is linked to their frustration with the inability of Washington officials to resolve other pressing national issues

This makes sense to me.  As I learned in college, when times get really bad, instead of grouping together to shape solutions, the public usually turns on itself looking for simplistic solutions.

Immigration Reform And Public Opinion

Sharry, the Executive Director of America’s Voice, an organization supporting common sense immigration reform, bases his opinions on recent public opinion polls

He starts with a poll conducted by Fox News, a television station with several anti-immigration reform advocates.

  • The government should secure the border first, before passing new immigration laws   21%
  • The government should secure the border at the same time as passing new immigration laws  68%

A recent poll of likely Colorado voters show similar sentiments.

By a 64 to 34% margin, Colorado voters think “A person residing here illegally in the United States with a clean record should be able to pay a fine, their taxes, and then have the opportunity to become U.S. citizens.”

Sharry also points out that Colorado voters oppose blanket deportation plans by a 58% to 40% margin.

It’s interesting to note Colorado is one of the states thinking of imitating Arizona’s enforcement-only approach to immigration.  Politicians really don’t get it.

Arizona SB 1070 And Public Opinion

Except for a few individuals living in isolated caves, most Americans know about the State of Arizona’s efforts to implement its own laws on immigration enforcement.  And have an opinion about it.

After all, the Arizona proposal, Senate Bill 1070, has received a lot of national attention.  On the surfact, its’ support seems overwhelming.  At least among elected political leaders.

However, various polls taken a few months ago about the public’s views on the Arizona view of immigration reform once more show the public is not inclined to focus all efforts on simply deporting immigrants:

Washington Post/ABC, June 2010: 58% support the Arizona law.  57% support a program giving illegal immigrants the right to live here legally if they meet certain requirments.

NBC/MSNBC/Telemundo, May 2010: 61% support the Arizona law.  65% favor allowing undocumented immigrants an opportunity to become American citizens.

CBS/New York Times, April 28, 2010 – May 2, 2010: 51% support the Arizona law.  64% think illegal immigrants should be allowed to eventually apply for U.S. citizenship or stay in their jobs as temporary workers.

The Immigration Reform Fight Marches On

Sharry’s analysis is on point.

Immigrants are not an evil tide of villains trying to destroy the American way of life.  Rather, they enrich our society in countless direct and indirect ways.  The American public knows, deep inside, immigrants are a plus, not a minus, for our society.

Politicians, on the other hand, are accustomed to manipulating voters to win elections.

In my view, the biggest problem with the federal government is the lack of political leadership.  Like many other citizens, I am frustrated by their failure to move immigration reform, as well as a host of other pressing issues, forward.

And I’m skeptical the fall elections will provide the public with a better set of decision-makers.

Being the son of an immigrant, and an immigration green card and citizenship attorney, I know the good that will flow once positive immigration reform is passed.    Someday, we’ll have our chance to prove it.  Until then, we’ll keep pushing for positive reform measures.

By , Immigration Law, Policy, And Politics