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More Evidence that the Public Overwhelmingly Supports a Path to Citizenship for Undocumented Immigrants

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Is Trump’s Nativism Driving Up Support for Humane Reforms?

Last night, speaking at an annual Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) gala, Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton reiterated her intention to introduce immigration reform legislation with a path to citizenship in the first 100 days of her presidency. The candidate acknowledged the skepticism about a legislative overhaul, noting that “people have been making the same promise for more than a decade,” but stated, “ I believe with all my heart that some things are too important to give up on.”

What is unequivocally true is that the American people are overwhelmingly – and increasingly – in favor of citizenship for undocumented immigrants. In fact, as a spate of recent polling and the Washington Post recently highlighted, Donald Trump’s overt nativism actually is “increasing sympathy for immigrants and depressing support for his harsh enforcement techniques.”

The newest poll to underscore this point is the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, which finds an all-time high in Americans’ support for citizenship for undocumented immigrants and an all-time low in support for requiring undocumented immigrants to leave the U.S. Overall, the poll finds that 74% of Americans back either citizenship (62%) or legalization short of citizenship (14%) versus just 21% who favor the deportation-focused option.

The nearly 3-in-4 support for “stay” instead of “go” also represents the high-water mark in the poll. Both the 62% support for citizenship and 74% support for citizenship or legalization are eight percentage points higher than when the pollsters first asked this question in January 2014. Meanwhile, the 21% support for requiring undocumented immigrants to leave is a full ten percentage points lower than when the pollsters first asked the question.

The overwhelming support for citizenship in the New York Times/CBS poll is similar to recent findings from a range of other pollsters. In the September 2016 Washington Post-ABC News poll, 78% of Americans back citizenship, instead of deportation, for undocumented immigrants, including 62% of Trump supporters; in a September 2016 CNN poll, Americans support rather than oppose a path to citizenship by a 88%-11% margin; Gallup polling from July 2016 found that 84% of Americans support a path to citizenship, including 91% of Democrats, 85% of Independents, and 76% of Republicans; and consistent findings from Pew Research polling and Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) show overwhelming preference for policies allowing undocumented immigrants to legalize instead of forcing them to leave (3:1 margin in Pew and 4:1 margin in PRRI polling).

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “In the presidential contest, there are stark differences between the Clinton commitment to a path to citizenship and the Trump commitment to the deportation of millions. But for the vast majority of Americans the question of what America should do about the presence of 11 million undocumented immigrants is settled and decided. In fact, Trump’s identification with the radical notion of deporting millions of people now settled in this country may well be driving support for humane and practical reforms upward.  It’s time for the GOP to catch up with the American people on this issue.”