Most Americans Support A Pathway To Citizenship For Illegal Immigrants

Another poll shows that most Americans, and even most Republicans, support a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

border-immigrants-crossing

A new Gallup poll shows that a majority of Americans, including Republicans, support a path to citizenship for people who are in the country illegally:

PRINCETON, N.J. — Two in three U.S. adults favor a plan to allow immigrants who are living illegally in the U.S. to remain in the country and become citizens if they meet certain requirements over time. Far fewer support allowing those immigrants to remain in the U.S. to work for a limited period of time (14%), or to deport all of these immigrants back to their home countries (19%). U.S. adults’ views have been largely stable over the past decade.

The latest update comes from Gallup’s 2015 Minority Rights and Relations poll, conducted June 15-July 10. The poll included larger samples of blacks and Hispanics. Immigration is of special significance to Hispanics, about half of whom are immigrants themselves, according to the poll.

Hispanics (77%) are more likely than non-Hispanic whites (62%) or non-Hispanic blacks (70%) to favor a path to citizenship for immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally. One in five whites, compared with 14% of blacks and 8% of Hispanics, prefer deporting undocumented immigrants back to their home countries.

Hispanics are slightly less likely now than in 2006 (86%) to favor a path to citizenship for immigrants. The 2006 survey was the last time Gallup asked the question in a poll that included an expanded sample of Hispanics. Whites’ and blacks’ views are largely unchanged since then.

U.S. adults’ views on the best approach to take with illegal immigrants living in the U.S. differ based on their party identification. At 80%, Democrats overwhelmingly favor allowing illegal immigrants to stay in the U.S. and to have an opportunity to become citizens. Republicans are far less likely to support a path to citizenship, at 50%, but that is still the most common view among this group. Thirty-one percent of Republicans want to see all illegal immigrants deported, while 18% favor allowing them to stay for a limited time to work.

Neither party’s views have changed dramatically over the past decade, but Democrats are now a bit more likely to endorse citizenship while Republicans are less likely to do so. The 31% of Republicans who favor deporting all illegal immigrants is up from 20% in 2006, while the percentage of Republicans favoring a path to citizenship is down from 58% to 50%. In 2006, President George W. Bush favored legislation that included a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Among people who self-identify as Independents, 63% favor a path to citizenship, up slightly from the 60% they were at in the 2006 survey, while 17% favor allowing people here legally to remain in the U.S. to work for a “limited time,” and 19% favor deportation. This result is also consistent with other polling that we have seen on this issue —- such as those I wrote about here, here, here, here, here, and here — that also shows that a majority of Americans, and even a majority of Republicans, generally support the idea of a path to citizenship for those here illegally and oppose the idea of the kind of forced deportation that many of the most extreme anti-immigration voices on the right seem to favor. The fact that the numbers are not significantly different from where were in 2006, indicates that nothing that has happened in the last nine years has really impacted public opinion on immigration very much. The only thing that seems to have changed is that certain voices have gotten more strident.

The question that comes to mind, of course, is why it is that it is basically impossible for any type of immigration reform to make it through Congress. The bipartisan bill that the Senate passed in 2013 ended up dying because the Republican-controlled House ignored the Senate bill and completely failed to follow through on any kind of immigration reform bill of their own, notwithstanding pressure to do so from business groups like the Chamber of Commerce and from Evangelical Christian groups that generally favor immigration reform. In response to Congressional inaction, President Obama has responded with a serious of Executive Actions, including 2012’s Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals and the broader relief that he proposed in November which now remains on hold pending a number of lawsuits by the states and by other entities. The President’s actions only seem to have hardened resistance among Republicans, and recently Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said there would be no immigration reform as long President Obama is in office.

While all of this may seem paradoxical given the fact that polling consistently shows that most Americans would favor an immigration reform package like the 2013 Senate bill that includes a pathway to citizenship, the reality seems to be that internal Republican politics make any action on this issue largely impossible. The portion of self-identified Republicans who actually oppose immigration reform, as indicated by polls like this one, is not very large but it quite clearly makes up a large percentage of the activist base of the party. Right now, that base is seeing its highest profile in the candidacy of Donald Trump, which has been largely built upon exaggerated anti-immigrant rhetoric and promise of “border security” that can never realistically be fulfilled in a free society. Republican politicians who even think about straying from the hard-right orthodoxy on immigration find themselves the subject of attacks and primary challenges from this hard-right base, so it ends up being easier doing nothing than doing the right thing. As long as that’s the case, nothing is going to be done about the problem of 11 million undocumented people in this country or the broken legal immigration system. Indeed, since we’re already in the throes of a Presidential campaign, you can pretty much assure that the only thing we’ll be hearing about immigration from now until November 2016 is rhetoric. Meanwhile, the problems will continue and a problem that could easily be solved will continue to fester.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Campaign 2016, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Hal_10000 says:

    The Republicans have gone down a rabbit hole on this one. If you laid out a program that made it easier for people to immigrate here legally for work and more difficult to work here illegally, you’d have massive support, even from Republicans. But they’ve become so used to hearing talk radio hosts talk about the “invasion” of Mexicans (even though most immigrants are now from China), they can’t see beyond it. “Building a wall” is now the mantra of anyone who is “serious” about immigration, just as war and torture have become the mantra of anyone who is “serious” on terrorism.

  2. Mu says:

    Still not making “allow permanent residence but no citizenship” an option, same biased poll as the last five times you wrote about it.

  3. Davebo says:

    @Mu:

    While that would probably poll well, it’s a baboon ass stupid solution and anyone that got behind it is already a Trump voter anyway.

    If the goal is immigration reform I’d rather have none than a solution of a tourniquet around the neck.

  4. bill says:

    ^ as long as they aren’t already “known felons” i hope. it’s strange how hispanics have actually dropped support by nearly 10% since ’06- that would be a better headline.
    i wonder how the survey was worded too- like was it deliberately confusing and/or weighted to favor a preferred answer?

  5. Tony W says:

    Most Americans also support term limits for congress, federal gun registration and background checks, a single payer health care system and a national ID card. We have Republicans so we can’t have nice things.

  6. Rafer Janders says:

    As long as we’re talking about this, can we also get a path to citizenship for legal immigrants and residents? Because as it stands right now, there are certain categories of foreigners who are allowed to live and work here legally but are not allowed to convert their visa status into permanent residency and/or citizenship. If we’re going to allow illegal immigrants an opportunity to cure their transgression, then surely we have to allow those who never transgressed in the first place to get at least the same deal.

  7. Davebo says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Which categories are you referring to?

  8. Mu says:

    @Davebo: So you prefer staying undocumented, subject to instant removal, unable to cash in on your paid SS, to legal permanent status unless you get a right to citizenship too? Oddly enough. as Rafer mentioned, there is already a large group of people in the country that fell afoul of certain exclusion rules and can never get citizenship despite legal residence status. Adding “directly paroled from undocumented status” (as compared to the normally required return to home country and getting in line) to the list of exclusions wouldn’t even be a major change in policy.

  9. Mu says:
  10. gVOR08 says:

    @Tony W:

    Most Americans also support term limits for congress, federal gun registration and background checks, a single payer health care system and a national ID card.

    And better environmental regs. But we’re a center right nation, or so pundits keep telling me.

  11. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    Oh no! “Even a majority of Republicans, generally support the idea of a path to citizenship for those here illegally;” a majority of Republicans are RINOs? OMG! Superdestroyer is right! We’re on the greased skids sliding to oblivion as a one party state!

  12. Matt says:

    @Tony W: Term limits tend to cause issues.

  13. Rafer Janders says:

    @Davebo:

    Which categories are you referring to?

    Generally foreign workers in the US, and visitors to the US, under the H-2B worker, H-3 trainee/worker, B-1 business, B-2 tourist, VWP visitor, F-1 student, J-1 exchange visitor, M-1 student, and special journalism, and entertainer visas, and also Canadian professionals living and working in the US under Trade Nafta (“TN”) status. Foreigners in the US under these visas are not supposed to have “immigrant intent” and can be denied entry and/or readmission if immigration or consular officials feel or determine that their intent is to establish permanent residency in America and not return home.

    Point is, if sneaking into the US illegally gets you a path to citizenship, then shouldn’t every legal entry into the US also get you on the same path?

  14. Davebo says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Thanks Rafer. I would take exception to many of those, especially H-3 trainee/worker, B-1 business, B-2 tourist, VWP visitor, F-1 student, J-1 exchange visitor, M-1 student since they were never intended to be permanent.

    On the upside, I do see where the Chief Immigration Judge at EOIR has suddenly resigned to take a temporary position on BOIA while awaiting to take a slot as an IJ in Arlington.

    Why not wait for the IJ position to be available? There’s a back story there.

  15. Rafer Janders says:

    @Davebo:

    Thanks Rafer. I would take exception to many of those, especially H-3 trainee/worker, B-1 business, B-2 tourist, VWP visitor, F-1 student, J-1 exchange visitor, M-1 student since they were never intended to be permanent.

    Right — and neither was sneaking into the country illegally intended to be permanent. That, in fact, was never intended to be allowed at all. So if we’re going to offer a path to citizenship to those who enter the US illegally, shouldn’t we then offer a path to citizenship to those who enter the country legally, even if the original intent was never that their entry would be permanent?

  16. Tyrell says:

    @Tony W: National ID card: I hear that all the time and it is usually in conjunction with the government health care system. Now it is going around in connection with the possible new global currency that might go into effect around October 20. Everyone would have to have an id to buy or sell anything. Except word is that it would not be a card, but some sort of implanted device or mark. Without it, you American currency will be only good at your neighbor’s yard sale or the local honky tonk.

  17. jewelbomb says:

    @Tyrell:

    Now it is going around in connection with the possible new global currency that might go into effect around October 20. Everyone would have to have an id to buy or sell anything. Except word is that it would not be a card, but some sort of implanted device or mark.

    This all sounds very plausible.

  18. KM says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    So if we’re going to offer a path to citizenship to those who enter the US illegally, shouldn’t we then offer a path to citizenship to those who enter the country legally, even if the original intent was never that their entry would be permanent?

    Yes, we should but not by automatically granting each and every category the same level of consideration; after all, there’s a reason these categories exist in the first place. Make it easier to switch categories internally to the appropriate state: if you were a B-2 tourist but found the love of your life and want to marry them and start a business here, you are by definition no longer a tourist but a prospective citizen-to-be. Therefore, you should be reissued the appropriate classification in a respectable amount of time (weeks or months, not years) but you should not be able to use “tourist” to bypass any restrictions places on the other classifications.

    We need to streamline the system and speed it up to an acceptable wait time, not just amend every piece to the same end goal. Different classification exist to suit certain needs and while we may not need all the ones we currently have, we do need to make differentiations between someone who will be here for a short time (tourist, student) vs someone who intends to stay.

  19. Rafer Janders says:

    @KM:

    Different classification exist to suit certain needs and while we may not need all the ones we currently have, we do need to make differentiations between someone who will be here for a short time (tourist, student) vs someone who intends to stay.

    Agreed. But what’s bothering me is that we’re proposing to make a differentiation by offering a path to citizenship for those who enter the country illegally, allowing them to convert their status, while not offering the same path to others who are here on certain long-term work, family and/or student visa statuses, not allowing them to convert their status. I work with a lot of foreign professionals residing in the US, many of whom have advanced degrees from American universities and some of whom own property here, and not all of them are currently able to convert their status to permanent residency and/or citizenship even if they wanted. There’s no easily treadable path for them.

  20. JohnMcC says:

    @Tyrell: That’s the plan. Hillary is going to have every American micro-chipped. It’s going to be called your MOtB (Mark Of the Beast). But relax, it’s going to work out just fine because — as Michele Bachmann assures us it just means Jesus is going to show up just in time!

    http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/michele-bachmann-obama-fulfilled-end-times-prophecy-iran-deal

    Don’t tell anybody you heard it from me; I don’t want to end up in a FEMA camp!

  21. gVOR08 says:

    @JohnMcC: I checked the central committee database. They already chipped Tyrell.

  22. michael reynolds says:

    @Tyrell:

    Jesus H, Tyrell, a world currency? Are you really dumb enough to believe that?

    OK, when this does not happen – because there is zero chance, absolute dead zero – will you at least promise to remember where you heard this nonsense and not trust them next time?

  23. Scott says:

    @michael reynolds: Actually, there has been discussion about creating a world currency, especially from China. Since Bretton Woods in 1944, the US dollar has been used as a global currency. This has been a great benefit to the US. As other nations rise economically with respect to the US, the case can be made to change the system. Think having the Euro on a global scale.

    Now the idea that this will lead to microchips implanted is nuts.

  24. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Tyrell: Have you been listening to Jack Van Impe and Hal Lindsay? I ask because I don’t, but my mom used to warn me about this stuff every time I came back from Korea, and those two guys were her sources.

    Funny thing–the only time they weren’t concerned that it would lead to the rise of the Antichrist was when George W. Bush suggested it in response to 9/11 and as a part of the “woh on terruh.”

    Hmmmmm……

  25. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @JohnMcC: Ms. Bachmann doesn’t seem to be able to keep her prophetic metaphors in line:

    She added that God and “heaven’s armies” will use groups like AIPAC to defeat the deal in Congress and in doing so “prove to the world His power and His strength.”

    It seems to me that if the effort is blocked by God’s agents at AIPAC and Congress, then the deal can’t fulfill the prophecy in Zechariah. But these things have been coming unraveled ever since “the faithful” decided (so it appears) that they would rather rule here than serve God there.

  26. Moderate Mom says:

    Question: What are the “certain requirements” met? That’s pretty generic. I would imagine many different people would have many different “requirements” in mind in order to have a path to citizenship. Each time a bi-partisan agreement is reached and is voted on in the House or Senate, those requirements seem to change, so I’m not sure how much agreement there would be as to what exactly requirements would have to be met and how the government could make sure that they were being met.

    I’d love it if a poll was conducted laying out exactly what those requirements are in the question. I feel like we’d get a more accurate picture of how the public feels.

  27. Tony W says:

    @Moderate Mom:

    Question: What are the “certain requirements” met?

    I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest pinkish skin would be ideal.

  28. Deserttrek says:

    @Tony W: liar liar pants on fire … any new ones to fantasize about?