Majority Backs Path To Citizenship In Immigration Reform
With the Senate’s version of immigration reform headed to the floor for debate after the recess, a new poll finds that a majority of Americans backs the idea of a path to citizenship for people here illegally:
In a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, 58 percent of all Americans support a so-called path to citizenship that would offer those currently living in the United States illegally a way to achieve legal status if they paid a fine and met other requirements. The Senate bill under consideration includes a 13-year pathway to citizenship after payment of a fine and any back taxes owed.
The overall support for the bill’s most controversial provision, however, masks partisan divisions that have colored the congressional debate. Majorities of Democrats and independents favor the path-to-citizenship proposal, but 52 percent of Republicans say they oppose it. Among Republicans who dislike the idea, most — 67 percent — say they could not support a congressional candidate who backs a citizenship path.
[I]t’s immigration reform that presents GOP lawmakers with a potentially difficult choice. Some prominent Republicans have said the party should get behind comprehensive reform of the nation’s immigration laws to help overcome opposition to GOP candidates among Hispanic voters.
In last year’s presidential election, just 27 percent of Hispanic voters supported Republican Mitt Romney. Unless the party’s next nominees can significantly improve their support among Hispanics, winning back the White House will be difficult.
But with a narrow majority of the Republican rank-and-file opposed to a path to citizenship, Republican lawmakers know that a vote in favor of immigration reform might carry electoral consequences. That reality was reflected in Tuesday’s vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The panel approved the immigration bill, 13 to 5. But only three of eight Republicans on the committee joined the 10 Democrats to support it.
The bill will need 60 votes to clear the Senate. Supporters are hoping for a much bigger majority to give the legislation momentum as it heads to the House, where Republican opposition is expected to be even stronger.
A vote against a path to legal status carries less obvious risk for Republican lawmakers than a vote for it. In the poll, most Republicans who favor such a provision, 62 percent, say they could support a candidate who opposes it.
Will Republican Party internal politics end up killing the immigration bill? The possibility certainly seems likely. If that happens, though, one thinks that the GOP will come to regret it when 2014 and 2016 roll around.