The survey of likely voters finds, for example, that the vast majority of voters believe the system is in need of fixing. 86% of Republicans believe Congress should take action to fix the immigration system. 79% of Independents agree. The GOP excuse for not acting – the president won’t enforce the law – is not fooling anyone. Some 72% reject that argument, including 2 out of 3 Republicans and 69% of Independents. The idea of waiting for reform is also a loser with 80% of voters wanting Congress to act this year, with nearly half calling it “very important” they act this year. Some 77% of Republicans say it is important that Congress act, while 53% say it is very important. And 74% of Independents believe it is important for Congress to act this year.
As for the substance of reform the so-called principles set out by House leadership — secure our borders, expand visas for high-skill workers and farm workers, provide an employer verification program, allow DREAMers to earn citizenship, and provide visas to live and work here legally to undocumented immigrants without a criminal record who pay penalties and back taxes – get support from 60 percent of voters. Among Republicans 54% support such an immigration reform plan with only 37% who oppose. Among Independents, 62% support and only 26% oppose.
In short, two-thirds of voters and 54 percent of Republicans support legal status for undocumented immigrants. Republicans would rather vote for a presidential candidate in 2016 that is from a party that supports reform (71%) than one from a party that opposes it (15%).
Ironically the border crisis, which anti-immigrant forces trumpet as evidence of the dangers of legalization, has if anything highlighted the urgency for fixing the immigration system. Congress is bristling at the president’s request for $3.7 billion, arguing that it is not clear how the funds will be used and whether funds will go to close the border or just provide services to the immigrants being held. In addition, the White House has resisted changes to existing law that would speed deportation of the unaccompanied minors. Rather than grouse about the request, Congress should pass its own bill, include the provisions identified above, specifically bar any unilateral relaxation in enforcement policy and in essence dare the Senate and president to say no. This is a golden opportunity for the House to use its leverage both to secure border protection and to get on the right side of this issue.