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New Poll Shows Latino Voters Want Citizenship, Not Border First Excuses

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Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and  other Republican Senators are making it clear that they need to see even more enforcement and a tougher path to citizenship in this compromise legislation.  This is raising concerns that the GOP will upset the careful balance in the Gang of Eight bill by demanding “border security first” and threatening the path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America.

If Republicans overplay their hand, a new Latino Decisions poll to be released on Thursday shows that Latino voters won’t buy it.  We’ll give you just a preview: when asked whether or not Congress “should focus only on border security first” or “address both a path to citizenship and border security together?” 81% said do both—including 66% of Latino Republicans—while only 13% said do border first.

Matt Barreto, Associate Professor of Political Science and the University of Washington and Principal at Latino Decisions, explains:

The poll results will make clear that the Republican Party can gain substantial Latino votes by supporting immigration reform, however they will not gain any votes, and more likely will lose votes if they sideline the path to citizenship in favor of border enforcement.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

The Republicans need to solve a political problem with Latinos – and failure to do so just won’t cut it.  They won’t get credit for an effort that falls short and they will get blamed if the bill holds citizenship hostage to unreasonable enforcement demands.  The only way for the Republican Party to avoid the demographic cliff they are in danger of hurtling over is to share credit in passing immigration reform with a clear path to citizenship.

The full set of results from this new poll are set to be released on a press call/webinar this Thursday.  Polling experts from Latino Decisions and immigration advocates will analyze how immigration influences the way Latino voters view the two political parties, and what Republicans and Democrats stand to gain or lose depending on how the debate unfolds.

The centerpiece of reform is a path to citizenship.  The path is what binds comprehensive reform together.  Though many keep using enforcement excuses as rationale to change or derail the bill, the Senate legislation already devotes unprecedented resources toward both a southern border that already has met most of the security metrics from the 2007 immigration bill and also establishes the mandatory use of an electronic employment verification system to hold employers accountable and end illegal hiring in the workplace.  Together, these amount to the largest enforcement increase in American history.  It’s safe to say, enforcement is baked in the cake.  What Latino voters want to know is how the rest of the plan will work.  When and how will the path to citizenship take shape?  That’s the missing link—and the key to the reform they want to see in Congress.

Latino Decisions interviewed 500 Latino registered voters nationwide from May 25-June 1, 2013.  Surveys were conducted in English or Spanish at the discretion of the respondent. The overall margin of error is +/- 4.4.  This poll follows a previous survey released in March 2013 – data available here and here).