Republicans know that demographic realities leave them no choice but to embrace some sort of immigration reform. But the GOP base — egged along by leading conservative media figures — strongly opposes a path to citizenship for the nation’s undocumented immigrants. So many GOP officials have embraced reform as a general goal while stopping short of citizenship, essentially supporting a kind of second class legal status.
The question is: Who does that position end up pleasing?
A new Quinnipiac poll out today offers an answer: Almost nobody. It finds that 59 percent of Americans support a path to citizenship, while 25 percent support deportation. The third option — staying without citizenship — is supported by only 11 percent.
Among Republicans those numbers are even more interesting. It finds that a plurality of 47 percent supports citizenship, while 36 support deportation. Only 10 percent of Republicans support the staying-without-citizenship option — the very position that is designed to get them to accept reform.
How can it be that more Republicans support citizenship than deportation? A lot of this has to do with question wording. Yesterday’s Washington Post poll, for example, found that Republicans oppose citizenship by 60-35. But the Post poll only surveyed directly on citizenship, and didn’t offer the range of options that includes citizenship, staying without citizenship, and deportation. When that is offered, as the Quinnipiac poll did, the anti-citizenship camp of Republicans is split.
This tells us something very important about the immigration debate. When all three positions are polled — and, in truth, the three options do represent the actual policy choice at the heart of the debate — the concocted “middle ground” position preferred by many GOP officials doesn’t really make anybody happy. It doesn’t even make Republicans happy. Only 10 percent of them support it.
The problem is that Republicans know that they must be seen embracing some sort of immigration reform. Yet the base’s opposition to reform is such that not even the proposal to keep undocumented immigrants in a kind of sub-citizenship legal category is enough to get them to support it. And so, ultimately, Republicans are going to have to decide: Who is calling the shots here, the sizable chunk of Republican voters who do support citizenship, or the hard core anti-immigration reform-at-all-costs base?
Second class citizenship is not the answer to the GOP dilemma here. Ultimately, Republicans either must bravely cross the path-to-citizenship Rubicon and accept the consequences from the right, or we’re not getting reform.
* Another “gun rights” talking point crashes and burns: Glenn Kessler takes apart Lindsey Graham’s claim that out of thousands of people stopped from getting background checks, none were prosecuted. The larger point here, as Kessler demonstrates, is that the “gun rights” crowd is basing one of their chief arguments — that we need better enforcement of current laws, but no expansion — on cherry-picked data.
Beyond this, it’s worth noting that the purpose of background checks is to stop transfers of guns to prohibited people, and each time that happens, it has succeeded.
* Overwhelming support for expanded background checks: Also from the new Quinnipiac poll: 91 percent of Americans, including 88 percent of Republicans and 88 percent of people from gun-owning households, support “requiring background checks for all gun buyers.”
We keep hearing that public sentiment for action on guns has “waned,” but this poll finds that 53 percent support “stricter gun laws,” up one point from February. What’s more, support for the actual proposals has not “waned,” which should mean something.
* Public thinks marriage should be decided by Constitution: Also from the Quinnipiac poll, this is striking:
Do you think each state should make its own law on whether same-sex marriage is legal or illegal there, or do you think this should be decided for all states on the basis of the U.S. Constitution?
State laws: 36
With the Supreme Court mulling a ruling on gay marriage cases that could have Constitutional implications, this suggests the public wants this settled already. Virtually all voter groups — Latinos, Independents, young voters — oppose having the states decide marriage rights, but Republicans support that by, 49-45, underscoring their isolation on the issue.
* The next battle in the immigration wars: Keep an eye on this one: A coalition of labor and faith leaders are joining to oppose any measure in the emerging immigration reform deal that would make it tougher for family members of citizens to join them in the United States. Republicans want this because it would lead to more skilled workers coming. What’s interesting here is that this could put Republicans at odds with the faith community.
* Gun control moves forward in Maryland and Connecticut: The Maryland House of Delegates has just passed one of the most sweeping gun control packages in the country, including universal background checks and required finger-printing of gun buyers. Gun control advocates are having success on the state level (also see Connecticut, where another sweeping law will be signed today) that’s eluding them in today’s Congress.
Also, this is a reminder that the 2016 Dem presidential contenders are all scrambling to put their stamp on the gun issue (such as Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley), which is rising in importance to Dem voters.
* However, “gun rights” state laws are also on the march: A sobering point from the Wall Street Journal:
This year, five states have passed seven laws that strengthen gun restrictions, while 10 states have passed 17 laws that weaken them.
This isn’t to say that the gun control victories in Maryland and Connecticut aren’t significant; they are. But the relentless focus of the “gun rights” brigade on state legislatures is another reminder why we need federal gun law reform.
* The gun battle in Congress isn’t over yet: E.J. Dionne makes the case that rumors of the demise of expanded background checks are very much exaggerated. He sees hope in the Senate:
Based on what they have said, a host of GOP senators just might find the daring to tell their party that gutting a background-check bill is foolish, substantively and politically. Their ranks include John McCain, who has been brave on this issue in the past, as well as Pat Toomey, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Jeff Flake, Mike Johanns, Dean Heller, Johnny Isakson, Saxby Chambliss, Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker and Rob Portman. They hold the key.
It does look bleak. But the hope remains that if enough GOP Senators come on board (Dems will probably have to jettison record keeping to make that happened) it could conceivably force a vote in the House.
* And Senate GOPers once supported background checks: Indeed, Alex Seitz-Wald reminds us of an episode that in theory should be relevant today: A number of Senate Republicans voted to close the private seller loophole back in 1999, amid public outcry after the Columbine shooting. However, House Republicans killed it by dragging things out procedurally until public sentiment dissipated, a time tested “gun rights” tactic.
I’d add, though, that a number of House Republicans did vote for the measure, even if it failed — meaning it’s not completely inconceivable that it could pass this time.