Now is the time for the Biden administration and Congress to provide citizenship for immigrants who previously entered the U.S. illegally, new survey data suggests.
A February poll by NewsNation/Decision Desk HQ found that a significant majority of registered voters — nearly 70% — strongly favor a pathway to citizenship for undocumented persons already in the country.
“Generally, in the past, blanket support for a path has gone no nigher than the high 50s,” NewsNation, a subscriber-based television news organization, said in a report about the survey. “The poll suggests that despite a crisis at the border with a growing influx of undocumented immigrants crossing into the country, momentum continues to grow for granting citizenship to those who are already here.”
The polling should send a strong signal to the White House and federal lawmakers that they have the backing of the American people to pursue immigration reforms that, at the very least, offer permanent residency and citizenship to undocumented persons living in the U.S., including the Dreamers, according to experts cited in the NewsNation report.
“Some domestic advisers in the White House falsely think that if Biden pushes for a path to citizenship and programs to regularize the undocumented, that there would be a political price to pay in future elections,” said Ernesto Castaneda-Tinoco, a sociology professor and director of the Immigration Lab at American University in Washington, D.C.
But that is not the case, said Scott Tranter, an adviser for Decision Desk HQ, which conducted the research for the NewsNation poll.
“That’s a clear winner there for the Biden administration, or any administration or any politician, to look at and say: ‘Hey, I want to be for something which the majority of Americans are supporting.’”
It’s clear voters want citizenship for undocumented migrants in the U.S., Tranter added. “Despite whether you think there should be more immigration or less immigration, whether or not you think there should be a wall or not be a wall, 70% of Americans think that, ‘Hey, if you’re here illegally already, you should at least give them a path to citizenship.’”
Citing a rise in popular support, numerous immigrant rights, religious and business groups have stepped up efforts in recent weeks to push Congress and the White House to enact meaningful immigration reforms — especially for the Dreamers who entered the country as children brought by their parents.
“Americans want commonsense reforms. They want the government to work and their tax dollars to have a return on investment. Given the current state of our politics, it may seem impossible to achieve bipartisan immigration policy solutions. Yet, we know that solutions are possible and, with your support, are attainable this year,” the Alliance for a New Immigration Consensus said in a March 2 letter to the leadership of the U.S. House and Senate.
The letter, which was signed by more than 30 faith-based, business and immigrant advocacy organizations, cited a survey by The LIBRE Initiative “which indicates that 93% of voters agree that immigration reforms are necessary and urgent. A strong majority of voters also want change to occur before the 2022 midterm elections and are willing to support specific policies to that end. More than 8 in 10 voters support solutions that strengthen border security; create a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, who came to the United States as children; and ensure a legal, reliable workforce for America’s farmers and ranchers.”
Recent research by the National Immigration Forum also found that voters, regardless of party affiliation, support bipartisan cooperation to pass immigration reform before the 2022 midterm elections.
“The country has typically been strongly in favor of citizenship for Dreamers.”
“New polling shows that an overwhelming majority of Republicans, independents and Democrats want lawmakers to work together on key immigration reforms — and want action now,” the forum said last month.
But NewsNation added that American attitudes about citizenship for immigrants have often wavered over the years: “The country has typically been strongly in favor of citizenship for Dreamers, the term for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. The percentage also remains high if there are some requirements to the path toward citizenship. But Americans who favor a path to citizenship starts to drop when the question is for adults or there are fewer requirements attached to obtaining citizenship.”
When asked if immigration is “a good thing or a bad thing” for the country, 35% said it’s a positive while 21% labeled as a negative. But 43% said it is “equally good and bad.”
Americans also are divided on whether immigration levels should increase (25%), decrease (37%) or remain the same (38%), NewsNation said.
Government spending on border security should increase, 48% of respondents said, compared to 31% who said it should stay the same and 20% who said it should decrease.
But whether they agree or disagree on specifics, a majority of Americans (86%) agree the issue of immigration is somewhat or very important, the NewsNation survey found.
And that should be enough to get legislation passed, said Shannon Gleeson, a Cornell University law and history professor. “Part of what you’re seeing is an appetite for reform that’s almost four decades in the making.”