The Washington Post

What do Hispanics want in a path to citizenship? The same thing everyone else wants.

Conventional wisdom dictates that the Hispanic community in the United States is far more supportive of overhauling the immigration system and allowing those who are in the country illegally to be given a path to citizenship than the population as a whole.

Activists rally in support of immigration reform.

That's right -- sort of. The reality of how Latinos feel about an immigration reform and, specifically, the requirements of a path to citizenship is more complex and worth exploring more deeply as we are just days away from the so-called "Gang of 8" introducing a bipartisan immigration proposal.

Let's start with where the CW is right.  Hispanics are more likely than the general population to say that immigration "strengthens" the country rather than weakens it, according to data from a new NBC-Wall Street Journal national poll. (NBC and WSJ did both a traditional national survey and an oversample of Latinos to produce statistically sound results among that community.) And they are far more likely than the broader public to strongly favor (55 percent to 29 percent) the idea of creating some sort of path by which those here illegally can become legal citizens.

But, get beyond the general outlines on immigration and path to citizenship and stereotypes begin to crumble.

Asked how they would feel about a path to citizenship in which undocumented workers would need to "pay a fine, any back taxes, pass a security background check, and take other required steps," 80 percent of Latinos either "strongly" (49 percent) or "somewhat" (31 percent) approve of that approach. But, so do 76 percent of the general public. (Thirty nine percent "strongly" favor it, 36 percent view it "somewhat" favorably.)

The results are similarly similar -- see what we did there -- when people were asked how long undocumented workers should have to wait before being eligible to become legal citizens. Among the general sample and the Latino oversample, a majority (54 percent in both cases) said that five years was the right amount of time to wait. Twenty two percent of Hispanics said undocumented workers should be immediately eligible for citizenship as compared to 18 percent of the overall population; 14 percent of Latinos and of the general public said the waiting period should be 10 years.

Those numbers are remarkable. What they suggest is that when you get down to the nitty gritty of what Latinos want in and out of a path to citizenship, you find that it's not that different from what the broader public wants.

How does that reality impact the coming debate on comprehensive immigration reform? It's hard to know since the loudest voices on both sides have a tendency to highlight where differences exist rather than where agreement lies. But, make no mistake, there is common ground -- or at least a common set of principles -- among a majority of Americans on what a path to citizenship should look like.


An RNC official compared homosexuality to alcoholism and said it leads to drugs.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the "Hastert Rule" was "never a rule to begin with."

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) had a really good first quarter, raising nearly $2 million.

Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) says she is still considering a Senate bid.

The anti-tax Club For Growth is encouraging supporters to help find a primary challenger against National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.).

New Jersey GOP Gov. Chris Christie's lead over state Sen. Barbara Buono (D) has been trimmed, but he is still up a whopping 30 points in a new Rutgers-Eagleton poll.

Contrary to his song lyrics, the White House did not clear Jay-Z's trip to Cuba. The Treasury Department did.


"Growth of suburbs in pro-gun states changing the political calculus in Congress" -- Philip Rucker and Paul Kane, Washington Post

"Five Gun Amendments to Watch" -- John Gramlich, Roll Call

"Liberal Kentucky group named in leak of Sen. Mitch McConnell conversation about Judd" -- Rachel Weiner, Washington Post

"How Pat Toomey joined the background check talks" -- Ed O'Keefe, Washington Post



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Sean Sullivan · April 11, 2013

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