A majority of US voters support immigration reform that provides a pathway to full citizenship for the nation’s undocumented immigrants, according to polls released this week by bipartisan polling groups.
The bipartisan endorsement suggests that a deal on a bill is politically viable and would enjoy widespread support, according to polls by the Democratic-leaning Hart Research Associates and Republican-leaning Public Opinion Strategies.
The findings, reported by the Huffington Post, come at an opportune moment as the Obama administration and the Republican controlled Congress begin work on a bipartisan immigration reform plan, where the issue of a pathway to citizenship is likely to become a major sticking point.
More than half of the 1,003 people surveyed supported a pathway to citizenship, the polls found. A majority also said they wouldn't consider such a move an 'amnesty' - a potent term that has successfully derailed every effort at dealing with the estimated 11 million undocumented people currently living in the United States.
Most Republicans would permit that undocumented immigrants be given legal status but hesitate over any provision that would create a special avenue to citizenship, effectively ensuring they could not become citizens, or vote, without waiting for long periods.
Democrats also advocate for a lengthy road to full citizenship as well, with prospective candidates needing to meet requirements the include fines and extended wait times, but they want to create policies specific to the undocumented immigrants who are currently in the US as part of a final package.
The latest polls could convince hesitant Republicans it's not political suicide to vote for immigration reform. In fact the polls found that 53 percent of people would be more likely to vote for their member of congress if they supported reform, versus only 8 percent who said it would make them less likely.
'We hope these polls will be able to do just that,' said Jeb Bush, Jr., a member of the board of directors for National Immigration Forum. 'Hopefully they have this type of data to... allow them to say, listen, this is an issue that's great for our country, people support it around the country, it's good for the economy, it's good for border security.'
Requiring undocumented immigrants to pay taxes was a high priority to the largest percentage of people - 89 percent - while only 33 percent reportedly said it was a top goal to give legal status, but not citizenship, to undocumented immigrants already living in the country.
Guy Molyneux, a partner of Hart Research Associates, told the Huffington Post that it was 'striking' how closely Democrats and Republicans aligned on immigration issues. Republicans were more concerned than Democrats that future undocumented immigration waves be prevented, while Democrats were more concerned than Republicans about creating a path to citizenship.