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Trump’s New Campaign Ads Attack Biden’s Support for a Path to Citizenship for Undocumented Immigrants? Yasss!

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President Trump’s new reelection ads criticize Joe Biden for supporting a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. The ads — one titled “Takeover” and another titled Cards” — attack Biden for wanting to “give amnesty to 11 million illegal immigrants.” 

Proceed, Mr. President.

Beyond the loaded phrasing, the focus on the policy vision for 11 million undocumented immigrants is a debate we welcome. The American people overwhelmingly and consistently support legal status and citizenship for undocumented immigrants — both before and during the  pandemic. Here is some very recent polling: 

  • By 82 to 13%, voters in battleground states support for “path to citizenship” (GSG). Polling conducted in early June by Global Strategy Group (GSG) of more than 1,500 voters in the battleground states of Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin found  that the most popular immigration policy response was to this option: “Providing a path to earn citizenship for undocumented immigrants who have been long-standing members of the community, have paid taxes, and passed a background check.” The research was sponsored by the Immigration Hub, FWD.us and America’s Voice.
  • By 74% to 24%, voters nationwide support allowing undocmented immigrants to stay in America (Hart Research). In July polling conducted by Hart Research and Associates, when presented with the following choice regarding undocumented immigrants: “There should be a way for them to stay in the country legally, if certain requirements are met” vs. “They should not be allowed to stay in the country legally,”  voters chose allowing them to stay in the country legally by 3 to 1. Similarly, by a 73-22% margin, respondents supported “Provide legal status and a path to citizenship to undocumented immigrants who are working in critical infrastructure jobs or providing essential services to combat the coronavirus.” Intensity is strongly on the pro-immigrant side of the question, with 43% strongly supporting vs. just 14% strongly opposing. 
  • 77% of swing state voters support a pathway to citizenship (Civis). In research conducted by Civis Analytics for The Immigration Hub, 77% of the 9,000 swing state voters interviewed supported a pathway to citizenship — the highest rated position of those tested. 
  • 68% of undecided battleground state voters support a pathway to citizenship (ALG). In battleground state polling conducted by ALG Research for National Immigration Law Center-Immigrant Justice Fund (NILC-IJF), pro-immigrant messaging, especially a pathway to citizenship, moves undecided voters in swing states. 68% of voters supported a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Another key finding, according to NILC-IJF: “Our pro-immigrant messages increase support for Joe Biden. The pro-immigrant messages we tested were framed as coming from Joe Biden and helped improve his net favorable rating among persuadable voters by 40 points…”

The following is a statement by Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

“Trump’s new ads publicize the fact that Joe Biden is committed to putting 11 million undocumented immigrants on a path to legal status and citizenship. In fact, the more voters know where Biden stands on this issue, the better his ratings. 

Thank you, Donald Trump. Thank you, Jared Kushner. Thank you, Bill Stepien. 

In the GOP’s shrinking whites-only cul-de-sac, “amnesty” is a dirty word. In the vast majority of multiracial, multiethnic America, voters strongly favor a fair and humane resolution for the 11 million undocumented immigrants deeply rooted in communities across the nation. 

Joe Biden has made it clear that one of his early priorities will be a bill to formally recognize undocumented immigrants as the Americans they already are. America wants a strong leader who brings people together to solve big challenges. The path forward is clear.”

Support for legalization and citizenship enjoys broad and deep support from Americans in poll after poll. See here for a roundup of past polling.

  • Record-high Gallup support for immigration as “good thing” for America (July 2020): By a 77-19% margin, Gallup finds that Americans think immigration is a “good thing” rather than a “bad thing” for the country today. Gallup has asked that question 19 times previously, going back to 2001. The current 77% support for “immigration is a good thing” is the highest ever recorded; the 19% support for “bad thing” is tied for the lowest ever; and the 58-point margin between “good thing” and “bad thing” is the greatest differential Gallup has ever recorded. The Atlantic’s David Graham captured this dynamic in a piece from last year titled, The Longer Trump Stays in Office, the More Americans Oppose His Views. He concludes, “Trump has managed to force a national conversation around immigration, but rather than bring people to his side, he has convinced them he’s wrong.”
  • Trump-Biden voters trust Biden vision on immigration: July 2020 NYT/Siena deep-dive polling identified a small but significant slice of battleground state voters who backed Trump in 2016 but back Biden in 2020. The top two reasons why? Biden will unite the country; and Trump has made race relations worse. Down the list some, but still making the cut as a top reason for the shift toward Biden: immigration. By a margin of more than 50 percentage points, former Trump voters “trust Biden to do a better job handling immigration.
  • Real world examples – read our report on xenophobia backfiring in 2017-2019 races: Of course, we also have the real world electoral examples of xenophobia backfiring. Check out Our recent deep-dive report documents how in contested races from 2017 through 2019 the Trump/Republican effort to replicate Trump’s 2016 electoral success by running on racial grievance and xenophobia has mostly failed.