On immigration reform, Americans want to have their cake and eat it too

By a two to one margin, Americans support a path to legal status for illegal immigrants in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, an idea endorsed by large majorities of Democrats and independents and almost half of Republicans. But competing concerns over border security and a desire for a speedier road to citizenship complicate the Senate Gang of Eight's legislative proposal.


This is a cake. Washington Post photo

Those somewhat contradictory findings are evidence of a sort of "have your cake and eat it too" mentality evidenced throughout the poll when it comes to the immigration issue.

For example, many Americans want both border security AND a quicker route to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. In the poll, over two-thirds of "legal status" supporters say a 13-year wait period for a gaining citizenship is "too long;" 25 percent say it's the right amount of time and 4 percent say it's too short.  At the same time, 50 percent of legal status supporters say citizenship should only be allowed after border control efforts are successful -- a key component in an earlier proposal that President Obama rejected. Fully one-third of legal status supporters (20 percent of the public overall) support both shortening the proposed wait period and tying citizenship to improved border security.


Post-ABC poll conducted April 11 to 14 on landline and cellular phones among a random national sample of 1,003 adults.

Beyond the critical issue of citizenship, several other parts of the Gang of Eight's immigration plan win public support. More than eight in 10 support requiring all businesses to check the immigration status of potential employees and two-thirds back increased border spending. Smaller majorities support additional visas for highly skilled workers and a guest worker program for low-skilled workers -- both part of the new proposal.

But, by 53 to 41 percent, more Americans oppose than support cutting the number of visas for family members of legal immigrants. The Gang of Eight plan would eliminate visas reserved for foreign siblings of U.S. citizens, as well as married children who are over 30 years old.

Letter to Wicker believed laced with poison: A letter addressed to Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) was discovered to contain a potential poison, federal officials said. The mail, which was intercepted at an off-site facility, initially tested positive for ricin, but officials familiar with the case said it was undergoing further testing late Tuesday. Officials didn't indicate why the letter was sent.

Sanford faces trespassing complaint: Former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford (R) is scheduled to appear in court two days after next month's 1st congressional district special election to address a complaint his ex-wife Jenny Sanford filed about him trespassing at her home in February, the Associated Press reported Tuesday night. It's about the last distraction Sanford needs right now as he tries to convince voters to look beyond his troubled past with less than a month before Election Day. Jenny Sanford told Politico it was not her who made the complaint documents public, and told the AP: "I want him to sink or swim on his own." The Sanford campaign didn't comment Tuesday night.

Fixbits:

Obama will travel to Boston on Thursday to attend an interfaith service for those who were killed and gravely injured in the attack on the Boston Marathon.

The Senate will begin considering nine proposed changes to federal gun laws on Wednesday, including a bipartisan proposal to expand background checks.

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) plans to meet Wednesday with some parents of first-graders who were killed in the Newtown, Conn., mass shooting.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) says the press covering the Boston bombings need to "chill out."

Obama is slated to dine with Senate Democrats Wednesday night.

Former congressman Anthony Weiner runs second among Democratic voters in the New York City mayoral primary, a poll shows. Weiner is weighing a run.

Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.) raised $417,000 during the first quarter of the year.

Must-reads: 

"Immigration measure’s opponents hope delays will kill bipartisan bill" -- David Nakamura and Aaron C. Davis, Washington Post

"Boston bombings test post-9/11 confidence" -- Josh Gerstein, Politico

"Facebook flexes political muscle with provision in immigration bill" -- Peter Wallsten, Jia Lynn Yang and Craig Timberg, Washington Post

"Eight Potholes for 'Gang of Eight' Immigration Bill" -- Niels Lesniewski, Roll Call

Clement is a pollster with Capital Insight, the independent polling group of Washington Post Media.

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