Immigration opponents don’t have public behind them

As many warn against it, one all too easily can forget that the loudest voices in the media do not represent the views of those they claim to. A new Pew poll on immigration bears this out. One would think that the entire right is anti-immigration reform and only some squishy heretics have joined up with Democrats to push immigration reform on an unwilling public. Wrong.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush-AP Photo/El Nuevo Herald, Hector Gabino

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush-AP Photo/El Nuevo Herald, Hector Gabino

Pew tells us: “More than 7-in-10 (71%) Democrats, nearly two-thirds (64%) of independents, and a majority (53%) of Republicans favor an earned path to citizenship.”

Americans of all faiths demonstrate pro-immigration sentiments: “Majorities of all religious groups, including Hispanic Catholics (74%), Hispanic Protestants (71%), black Protestants (70%), Jewish Americans (67%), Mormons (63%), white Catholics (62%), white mainline Protestants (61%), and white evangelical Protestants (56%) agree that the immigration system should allow immigrants currently living in the U.S. illegally to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements.”

Anti-immigration advocates are also on the losing side of a number of issues:

More than 6-in-10 (61%) Americans favor allowing illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to gain legal resident status if they join the military or go to college, a policy which comprises the basic elements of the DREAM Act. Approximately one-third (34%) of Americans oppose to this policy.

Few Americans favor a policy colloquially known as “self-deportation,” in which conditions are made so difficult for illegal immigrants that they return to their home country on their own. Approximately one-third (34%) of Americans agree that this is the best way to solve the country’s illegal immigration problem, while nearly two-thirds (64%) disagree.

The poll also reflects concerns about the impact on wages. (“While nearly two-thirds (64%) of Americans agree that immigrants coming to this country today mostly take jobs that Americans don’t want, a majority (56%) of Americans simultaneously say that illegal immigrants hurt the economy by driving down wages for many Americans.”) But, of course, the presence of an underground economy in which illegal workers can be paid less than minimum wage or going rates is itself a unfair source of competition for U.S. workers.

In short, politicians who are pursuing reasonable immigration reform including border security are not going up against a tide of public opinion. To the contrary, even within their own party they are smack in the mainstream. The poll doesn’t measure intensity, and it is possible that anti-immigration pundits could whip up a segment of the electorate. But far more likely is that politicians who come up with a solution to immigration may get some praise. Moreover, for Republicans they might actually improve their ability to communicate a conservative policy message once they stop threatening to deport 11 million people.

 

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