Momentum for a major immigration overhaul has stalled in the House, as Republican leaders there have declared the Senate’s 1,200-page bill dead on arrival. But backers of the Senate’s framework—a combination of beefed-up border security and a path to citizenship for those already here illegally—have one key advantage going forward: broad public support.
A strong majority of Americans, 59 percent, said they would like to see the House either pass the Senate’s immigration bill as is or pass a version with even tougher border-control measures, according to the latest United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll.
In contrast, only one in five voters said they prefer that the House pass no immigration legislation at all, and only 13 percent said they want the House to strip the path to citizenship from the Senate’s bill.
In the survey, respondents were given four options for how the House should proceed on immigration. The two most popular answers were to pass the Senate bill with tougher border-enforcement provisions (30 percent) and to pass the Senate measure as is (29 percent).
House Speaker John Boehner has ruled out the latter option, and his conservative Republican Conference has expressed little interest in any package with a path to citizenship for the millions of people now living in the country illegally.
The trouble for Republicans is that passing immigration legislation without a path to citizenship was respondents' least popular option across all age groups and income levels, among both men and women, in cities, suburbs, and rural areas.
Among different ethnic groups, Latinos (39 percent) were more likely to support passage of the Senate bill than were whites (27 percent), although the smaller sample size lessens the reliability of these figures. Only 17 percent of Latinos said they want to see the House pass a version of the Senate bill with stricter border measures, versus 30 percent of whites who want that option.
The poll showed partisan differences, as well.
In the survey, 37 percent of Democrats said they wanted the House to simply pass the Senate bill—a position supported by only 18 percent of Republicans. But Republicans were not enamored of the idea of stripping out citizenship provisions (16 percent) or passing no bill at all (16 percent). Instead, a plurality of Republicans, 42 percent, said they would like the House to pass a version of the Senate legislation but with firmer border-security provisions.
Interestingly, the combination of Democrats in favor of the current Senate bill and those in favor of an alternative with strong border measures (59 percent) was almost equal to the percentage of Republicans favoring those two options (60 percent). The parties were simply inverted on whether they preferred the Senate bill as is or with stronger border security.
Support for passing the Senate legislation was strongest among young Americans, those 18 to 29 years old: 36 percent of this group backed that way forward. Only 17 percent of young people said they did not want any immigration measure to pass.
In the poll, respondents were told that the Senate-approved immigration bill “would double the number of border-patrol agents, double the amount of fencing along the Mexican border, and allow immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally to become citizens after 13 years if they pay a fine and learn English."
It was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International from July 11-14, via landlines and cell phones. The topline numbers have a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points, with larger margins for subgroups.
This article appears in the July 18, 2013, edition of NJ Daily.