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Polls, Pols & Support for Immigration Reform - Amid Clouds, a Silver Lining

by Anthony E. Weigel

Over the past few months, the American public has been polled numerous times on the issue of immigration. Many of the polling questions have focused on the propriety of Arizona's incursion into federal immigration law enforcement. More recently, polls have been conducted regarding the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and a variety of proposals to alter it, to include retroactively revoking citizenship status. Embedded within the polling data are questions and answers that focus on varying responses to our country's immigration doldrums.

Some have exercised a rather selective eye on polling data and focus on one statistic - support for laws like Arizona's Senate Bill 1070. The anti-immigration group ALIPAC has touted support for these measures in other states by citing a recent Rasmussen Reports poll. [1] In late-July, Rasmussen found 59% of respondents supported Senate Bill 1070-like laws.[2] Anti-immigration interest groups are effectively leveraging this sliver of the polling data to reportedly prompt current and potential politicians in up to 22 other states to pass similar laws.[3] This political feat is on par with that of the grand, great and powerful Wizard of Oz.

It is almost innate for politicians to poll, develop talking points for election purposes, and then develop policy. Fortunately, a number of recent polls provide us with more comprehensive idea of solutions preferable to simply passing more dead-end measures, like Senate Bill 1070.

Politico's August 16th Power and the People poll[4] highlights two data points that, while not surprising, highlight the public's focus on immigration. According to the poll, 85% believe the issue is important in the U.S. and 70% are following it closely.[5] What may surprise some is that this poll found that 61% support Congress passing comprehensive immigration now, versus 23% in support of Congress taking no action and allowing states to tackle illegal immigration.[6]

CNN's Opinion Research Poll,[7] released July 27th, shows an astounding 81% favoring the creation of a program allowing illegal immigrants to remain in the country to apply for legal status, subject to having a job and paying back taxes. [8] CNN's poll also shows, while 55% favor Arizona's SB 1070, 50% believe it will not reduce illegal immigration and 54% believe it will lead to discrimination against Hispanics.[9] Finally, FoxNews' August 13th Opinion Dynamics poll[10] indicates that, by a margin of 68% to 27%, respondents favored giving illegal immigrants who pay taxes and obey the law a second chance and allowing them to stay in the U.S. The FoxNews poll also indicates that 68% believe the federal government's top priority should be to simultaneously pass new immigration legislation and secure the border, over 21% who believe in securing the border first.[11]

    The messages from these polls seem to be clear and consistent.
  • Immigration matters and the public is closely following the issue;
  • By wide margins, the public supports offering illegal immigrants a conditioned path to legal status, in addition to securing the border; and
  • The passage of state immigration laws will not solve the country's immigration problems and will negatively impact Hispanics in the U.S.
What is much less clear is how our politicians will react to calls for policy changes that are not quick, easy solutions and embody mindless shortcuts. Will they venture from the policy storm shelters and realize the opportunity to reform the country's immigration laws in a way that is meaningful and effective? Perhaps.

It has been a tough summer for pro-immigration advocates. We have been forced to weather discussions ranging from age-old questions of states' rights to the phenomena of 'drop and leave' and 'terror babies.' In spite of it all, advocates should find it heartening to know that, when given fair and balanced questions and an opportunity to decide between competing proposals, public opinion clearly supports comprehensive immigration reform.


1 ALIPAC, 60% in Florida Favor Arizona-Like Immigration Law in Their State(accessed Aug. 25, 2010).

2Rasmussen Reports, 59% Support Arizona Law; 53% Trust States More than Feds To Enforce Immigration Law (July 30, 2010) However, this poll also stated that 54% were concerned that efforts to identify and deport illegal immigrants would also end up violating the civil righs of some U.S. citizens.

3Fred Lewis,, Nearly Half of United States Considering Arizona-Style Immigration Legislation (accessed Aug. 25, 2010).

4Politico, Power and the People Poll (Aug. 16, 2010)

5Id. at 108 and 144

6Id. at 155

7CNN Opinion Research Poll (July 27, 2010)

8Id. at 5

9Id at 7

10FoxNews, Opinion Dynamics Poll (Aug. 13, 2010)

11Id. at 2. Note: The FoxNews poll also states that 61% believe it is impossible to seal the U.S. border

About The Author

Anthony E. Weigel is an immigration attorney at HuschBlackwell Sanders, LLP and represents employers and individuals with immigration sponsorship matters and in a full range of issues relating to employer compliance with immigration laws. Mr. Weigel successfully represented clients in employment-based sponsorship cases in healthcare, information technology, education, engineering, telecommunications, research and defense industries. He regularly advises clients on immigration compliance, from compliance planning to assistance with defense of criminal prosecutions, in construction, retail, service and manufacturing industries

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.

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