Defying Conventional Wisdom, Even Republicans Favor Citizenship/Permission to Remain by 68% to 31%
A newly-released poll from Gallup shows that the American public, by a margin of 79% to 19%, supports immigration reform that allows undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States. The same poll shows that Republicans support legalizing undocumented immigrants by more than a 2-1 margin.
For all the talk of the rise of Trump, building walls and “no amnesty,” the poll shows what we’ve known for some time: voters, including Republicans, support legalization. Americans are more than ready for reform that allows undocumented immigrants to live and work legally in America, but a minority within the GOP is blocking it.
The Key Overall Results
65% support a path to citizenship; 14% support allowing undocumented immigrants to remain and work in the U.S. for a limited time; and 19% support deportation. In other words, two-thirds support a path to citizenship and 4 out of 5 Americans support policies that allow undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. Only one out of five support deportation.
These results are similar to the findings of the non-partisan Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). Based on more than 40,000 phone interviews, PRRI finds that 77% of the country supports either a path to citizenship (60%) or permanent legal residence short of citizenship (17%) for undocumented immigrants, while only 19% want to “identify and deport” immigrants “who are currently living in the U.S. illegally.” PRRI’s combined 77% to 19% margin is nearly identical to Gallup’s 79% to 19% margin.
The Key Republican Results
Sure, the nation supports legalization, but what about Republicans? Doesn’t the Trump surge, the flip-flopping of Rubio, the lurching to the right of Walker, Rubio and Christie, and the tepid support for Jeb Bush show that being for the legalization of undocumented immigrants is nearly disqualifying?
No, it doesn’t. 50% of Republicans support a path to citizenship; 18% support allowing undocumented immigrants to remain and work in the U.S. for a limited time; 31% support deportation. In other words, Republicans favor allowing undocumented immigrants to live and work in the U.S. legally by 68% to 31%, more than a 2-1 margin (Democrats support legalization by 88% – 11%; Independents by 80% – 19%).
The American people, including Republicans, are ready for a solution that legalizes undocumented immigrants. Evidently, the Republican Party leadership, Republican members of Congress, and most of theGOP’s presidential candidates are not. Most Democratic, Independent and Republican voters understand that the mass deportation or self-deportation of 11 million immigrants, most of whom have lived here for more than a decade, is unrealistic and unwise. A minority – roughly a third – of Republicans still favor deportation. Sizable, to be sure, but more than twice as many favor a path to citizenship or work permission.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “Immigration reform is often regarded as an issue that generates more heat than light, and more noise than progress. But, when you focus on the central question – what do we do with 11 million undocumented immigrants settled in America – the vast majority of Americans want a practical and inclusive approach. The public gets what too many Republican policymakers do not: 1) the vast majority of undocumented immigrants are hardworking, family-oriented people who make our country stronger; and 2) registering, screening and legalizing undocumented immigrants will eliminate the chaos and confusion of the dysfunctional status quo and bring safety and order to our immigration system. These results expose those that yell ‘build a wall,’ ‘secure the border first’ and ‘no amnesty’ as out of step with Americans who want realistic solutions, not vacuous soundbites. Unfortunately, the loud nativist minority is the anti-immigrant tail wagging the GOP dog. With feckless leaders and too many timid candidates, the bullies and the bigots are filling the vacuum. Sooner or later, they will lose, as will their party, for you can’t ultimately prevail when you’re on the wrong side of public opinion and the wrong side of history. For now, however, the question is whether and when candidates and constituencies in the Republican orbit are going to take on and overcome the loud-but-not-large minority that is delaying reform and dooming the GOP future.”