Americans Still Support Immigration Reform (including citizenship for the undocumented)

Behind Acrimonious Debate, Public Support High for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

National Immigration Forum -7.30.07

In the spring of 2007, Congress engaged in a bitter debate on the issue of immigration reform. A fierce battle was fought between those who seek practical, comprehensive solutions to our broken immigration system, and those who favor only the enforcement of the broken status quo.

The debate was conducted in an atmosphere poisoned by the followers of conservative talk radio and anti-immigration reform groups who complained loudly that any practical immigration proposal was “amnesty.” They managed to intimidate Congress into a stalemate. Until Congress picks up immigration reform again, the nation will continue to suffer the consequences of a broken immigration system.

In the aftermath of a debate that had strong anti-immigrant and anti-Latino overtones, citizenship applications are at record levels, and new Americans are registering to vote and preparing to have their say in the next election.
If recent experience proves to be a trend, however, the defenders of the broken status quo may come to regret their opposition to comprehensive immigration reform. In 2006, the Republican leadership...listened to the loud voices of immigration restrictionists and bet their political careers on...demonizing undocumented immigrants. [T]he American people were not impressed, and...Latino voters...offended—not to mention moderate and Catholic voters, who deserted the Republicans in droves. Many hardliners lost their seats and leadership positions.

Unfortunately, as the recent debate has demonstrated, lessons were not learned. The general public continued to show steady support for immigration solutions that include enhanced border security, workplace and employer enforcement, and earned legalization for undocumented immigrants with a path to citizenship. Yet, Senate immigration hardliners continued to take their queues from the loud minority opposed to reform.

Click here for a summary of recent public opinion polls on the immigration reform debate.

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