Illegal Immigration is Key Concern to Voters

Citizens United commissioned McLaughlin & Associates to conduct a national survey of likely voters, including an oversample of Latinos, to gauge public opinion on the issue of illegal immigration.  Among the findings:

— 93% of voters say that illegal immigration is a problem facing the United States today, with 63% regarding illegal immigration as a major problem.

— A 51% majority of voters says the measures passed last year by the President and Congress did not decrease illegal immigration at all.

— A 35% plurality of voters cite “securing our borders so terrorists can’t enter our country” as the illegal-immigration issue about which they are most concerned.  A 36% plurality say the best way to secure the U.S.-Mexico border is “preventing illegal immigrants from being hired for jobs in the United States.”

— There is strong support for proposals that would help immigrants to learn and use the English language.  80% of total voters and 62% of Latino voters favor making English the official language of the United States.  88% of both total voters and of Latino voters favor requiring that all public school students who cannot read English be enrolled in English-immersion classes.

— There is strong support for several proposals to track and identify illegal immigrants.  Requiring valid photo ID from voters on Election Day before they vote is supported by 82% of both total voters and of Latino voters.  Creating a tamper-proof ID system to determine instantly if a job applicant may work in the U.S., and holding employers who hire illegal workers accountable, drew support from 78% of total voters and 73% of Latino voters.  Prohibiting states from issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants drew support from 75% of total voters and 59% of Latino voters.

— Voters favor tougher laws on deportation of illegal immigrants.  Requiring police to detain and hold for deportation any illegal immigrants arrested or stopped for other crimes, thereby effectively repealing local “sanctuary” laws, is supported by 77% of total voters and 67% of Latino voters.  A “zero tolerance” policy that would call for deportation of any illegal immigrant in the U.S. to his or her country of citizenship is supported by 68% of total voters and 56% of Latino voters.

— Voters worry about the burden of illegal immigrants on social services.  71% of voters support passing a new law stopping taxpayer funding of Medicaid, welfare, and other government services for illegal immigrants.  77% of total voters and 72% of Latino voters oppose giving Social Security benefits or extending credit to illegal immigrants.

— 61% of voters do not support any blanket conditions for giving legal, green-card status to illegal immigrants.

— 73% of total voters support changing U.S. “birthright citizenship” law so that a child born in the U.S. may only be a citizen at birth if one parent is already a citizen.  Only 53% of Latino voters support this proposal.

— Less than half (48%) of voters support the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act introduced by Senators Ted Kennedy and John McCain, which provides a “path to citizenship” for illegal immigrants already in this country.

— Less than one-third (31%) of voters support, and 61% oppose, providing a path to citizenship for those illegal immigrants who entered the U.S illegally, and who fraudulently obtained green cards and Social Security numbers, when millions are playing by the rules and waiting in their countries to enter the United States legally.  The numbers are similar among Latino voters (37% support, 57% oppose).

— Only 50% of total voters and 47% of Latino voters support a comprehensive immigration reform bill that would provide legal status for illegal immigrants, but not provide a “path to citizenship” unless the individual returns to their home country to apply at the U.S. embassy or consulate to re-enter the U.S. legally as a permanent resident with a green card, pays a $10,000 fine, and gets in line behind those in their country who have already applied to enter the U.S. legally.

— Support is mixed for proposals relating to temporary worker programs.  A temporary worker program for illegal immigrants that would legalize their status and allow future immigrants to work in the U.S. legally with temporary work visas, but not citizenship, is supported by 59% of total voters and 69% of Latinos.  However, the President’s new immigration proposal, which would grant work visas to illegal immigrants, requiring them first to return to their home country and pay hefty fines to become a legal U.S. resident, then to apply for three-year work visas that would be renewable and cost $3,500 each time, is less popular, with only 43% of total voters and 38% of Latino voters supporting.

— Support is also mixed for additional security measures at the border.  70% support hiring 6,000 new border patrol agents to bring the force to 18,000.  Only 50% support building 370 more miles of fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.  Support for both of these proposals drops among Latino voters (56% support more agents, 35% support more fence).

— Now that the Department of Homeland Security is preparing various measures to reduce illegal immigration, voters would prefer that those measures show signs of having reduced illegal immigration before the government starts granting work visas to illegal immigrants already here.  51% of voters would support a program to allow illegal immigrants to gain legal status with temporary work visas (but not citizenship) when there is actual proof that the Homeland Security measures are working, compared to 28% of voters who favor beginning the work visa program at the same time that the Homeland Security measures are implemented.