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Thursday, October 20, 2016

With all the high drama in Washington over immigration, you’d think the fate of undocumented workers represented a cataclysmic political divide — an ever-widening chasm that cannot be bridged. But it doesn’t.

Polls have long shown that a majority of Americans favor a pathway to citizenship for those residents who entered the country illegally. But new data show that isn’t a matter of blue states overwhelming red ones. In fact, there isn’t a state in the union, from the bluest to the reddest, where a majority opposes a path to citizenship, provided certain criteria are met, for those without papers, according to the Public Religion Research Institute.

The PRRI has used its data to create an American Values Atlas that shows the political inclinations of voters in each state. Unsurprisingly, some states are more immigrant friendly than others. In California, for example, 66 percent support a path to citizenship for the undocumented. In crimson-red Alabama, that drops to 56 percent. But that’s still a majority.

Yet, that very pathway is the mechanism that congressional Republicans have denounced as “amnesty” and refused to support. House Speaker John Boehner’s caucus has declined even to hold a vote on a proposal for comprehensive immigration reform.

Last fall, when President Obama took action through executive orders to grant temporary papers to as many as 4 million immigrants who met certain criteria, Republicans were apoplectic, claiming he was violating the Constitution and behaving like a despot. They have used every instrument at their disposal, from lawsuits to a pitched battle over funding for the Department of Homeland Security, to overturn the president’s orders.

Yet even the president’s executive action on immigration is not as unpopular as you might think. While his decision to use executive powers does not draw universal support, the aim of his action does. Three-quarters of Americans favor his policy of granting temporary documents to certain groups of immigrants. Said Robert Jones, CEO of the institute, “In today’s polarized politics, there are few major issues that attract this kind of bipartisan and cross-religious agreement.”

It makes you wonder: Who are those congressional Republicans listening to? Why are they opposing a policy with widespread support, even among GOP voters? (While more Democrats — 70 percent, according to the PRRI — support a path to citizenship, 51 percent of Republicans do, as well.)

The answer is depressing, if not surprising: The Republican Party continues to be held hostage by an aging and nativist minority of Tea Partiers who cannot stomach the idea of a browning America. (It isn’t considered polite to point this out, but more Tea Partiers hold views that show racial resentment than the public at large. As just one example, a 2010 New York Times poll showed Tea Partiers are “more likely than the general public, and Republicans, to say that too much has been made of the problems facing black people.”)

Among those who identify with the Tea Party, only 37 percent support a pathway to citizenship, according to the PRRI poll. Twenty-three percent would give them legal residency, while 37 percent want to deport each and every one of them, the poll said. (Never mind the logistical and financial nightmare that trying to round up every undocumented resident would represent.)

This is a huge problem for the GOP, as its strategists have pointed out for years. The party cannot afford to alienate Latinos, a growing bloc, as they have alienated black voters with their resistance to civil rights measures.

So rather than pander to an ultraconservative and xenophobic minority, the Republican Party’s leaders ought to educate them about the need for comprehensive immigration reform. As a practical matter, demographic change is already preordained: By the year 2042, according to the U.S. Census, whites will no longer constitute a majority, no matter what happens to undocumented immigrants. The GOP needs the allegiance of more voters of color if it is to regain the Oval Office.

But there is more at stake here than the survival of a political party. The nation also needs those immigrants; it needs their energy, their youth, their hopes and dreams. We ought to welcome them with open arms.

Cynthia Tucker won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007. She can be reached at [email protected]

Photo: Anuska Sampedro via Flickr

  • Dominick Vila

    My position on this is simply NO! The fact that most of our ancestors came and settled in the USA without an entry visa, and often without a passport is irrelevant. The immigration laws passed in 1935 require a passport, and an entry visa, and until those laws are changed, they must be respected and enforced.
    One of the consequences of Reagan’s 1986 amnesty is that it encouraged more people to enter the USA illegally, knowing that sooner or later we would give up, and reward them with a privilege they don’t deserve.
    Having said that, short and long term solutions must be pursued to solve this problem once and for all. I favor Sen. McCain’s old “Guest Worker Program”, or something similar to the “Temporary Work Permits” that allow illegal immigrants who have been in the USA for over 5 years, and who have children born in the USA, to stay and work legally, without fear of deportation, until our immigration laws are changed in a way that reflect our unskilled or semi-skilled labor needs.
    I believe deporting children (DREAMERS) who came to the USA as infants, who were educated in the USA, speak English fluently, and especially those who have served in our Armed Forces, is wrong. I definitely oppose deporting “anchor babies” – children born in the USA – who are American citizens according to the Constitution.
    Instead of political games, and brinkmanship, we need pragmatism and a genuine desire to solve this problem. Sadly, a solution is likely to remain as nebulous as ever, not because the problem cannot be solved, but because the special interests that benefit from the labor of illegal immigrants want to preserve the status quo.

    • itsfun

      Must be the water, because we agree on something Dom. Maybe if we started to enforce the law, there wouldn’t be much of a problem if any.

      • gmccpa

        The problem with ‘enforcing the law’…literally means deporting 10 to 15 million people. Which is virtually impossible. And as Dom points out….literal enforcement will mean deporting people even YOU would not want deported. (or maybe you do)

        All of a sudden we’ll hear reports of war heroes, disabled children, infants who never set foot their supposedly native land, being callously kicked out. So, when push comes to shove….no one will agree with total enforcement.

        As it stands, we’re faced with a huge undocumented population. The GOP response of just saying childish. So, as time passes…the situation remains the same. And they blame Obama….for a problem that we’ve faced for decades. Do you really believe that should Walker…or Rand Paul…win the Presidency, that they will champion wholesale deportation? That’s not going to happen. Its just not realistic.

        • But the Emperor IS the problem, with his total disregard for our laws and our constitution, something he swore an oath to uphold.

          • rudy88

            Executive orders are NOT unconstitutional. all of our recent presidents have used them and Obama is one of the ones who has use them the least!

          • More like executive decrees. He has not fulfilled his oath to support and defend the Constitution..

          • rudy88

            What would you do to support and defend the constitution? and BTW, Order or decree! He has asked congress to do something and they have sat on their hands and complained.. They said they would do something about a lot of things but instead, cist us millions by shutting down the government. May you should listen to some other station than FAUX NEWS!

          • What would I do? First off, adhering to the Constitution. The oath everyone takes that serves America is to defend the Constitution, not government. The Emperor sees the Constitution as something that’s gets in his way. He only follows those laws and procedures that he feels he should. This is not a President, but a tyrant. I took that oath, as has every soldier, to defend the Constitution from ALL enemies, foreign or domestic. It’s hard to determine which the Emperor is, but seeing he is not an American, foreign seems to fit. Regardless he is an enemy of America and should be dealt with.

          • dpaano

            Boy, every time you comment on these threads, you show your complete ignorance!!! It’s amazing! As a note, the last time I checked, Hawaii (where our president was born) IS in the U.S.A., which makes him an American citizen. He’s more a citizen than Cruz……that’s for darn sure!

  • James Bowen

    There are also polls that show the opposite of this. At the end of the day, polls are unreliable. It makes sense to look to other indications, like constituent feedback to Congress, website visitation, Facebook likes, and comment threads on mainstream news sites. Those indicators reveal that popular support for legalizing illegal aliens is almost nonexistent when compared to opposition to the same.

  • Allan Richardson

    Most conservative voters belong to religious traditions which emphasize forgiveness of sins … after appropriate acts of atonement. People who are caught in a DUI which does not result in injury are not shot (as in some Central American countries, first offense) or forbidden to drive for life; they get their driving privileges back after a period of time, at least the first time. Couples who conceive their first child before their wedding are forgiven as long as they do marry and attempt to raise the child properly and remain together (nowadays, even if they just move in and act as married, bringing back the spirit of the old “common law” marriage). Evangelists who are caught with hookers and cry before the TV cameras about how penitent they are about sinning are back on the air asking for money again in a year or two. Executives who ran a company aground get their golden parachute money and when people forget their previous record get another chance to lead another company.

    By the same token, most Americans, when asked, agree that people who entered the United States illegally, and we were not sharp enough to stop them AT the border or shortly after, but who have lived good, productive lives since they got here, should be allowed to correct their earlier misbehavior, after a suitably onerous penalty. And in the case of people brought here as CHILDREN, who may not even REMEMBER their previous country (or if they do, were too young to REFUSE to come along with their parents), most Americas, except for extremists, would be willing to let them stay and prove by their service that, had they been old enough to apply for visas, they would have done so. The children, especially, have been RAISED AS AMERICANS.

    As for the “moral hazard” of encouraging more illegal immigrants, and the claim that illegal immigrants soak up welfare programs (for which they are NOT eligible anyway) and hurt the economy, the facts do not bear that out. The reason more illegal immigrants come is that things are SO BAD in their home countries that they are willing to RISK being deported in order to escape those conditions. And the majority do not INTEND to stay and become citizens anyway; if the borders were truly open both ways, they would “commute,” that is come here for a year or two and then take their savings back home (forget that this would be worse for our economy than their staying). Instead of applying for welfare programs, they take ANY job available and tolerate abuse which was not allowed to be done to American workers for a hundred years (but if we get another Republican president and Congress, we may find out).

    The “conservative” movement is split on the immigration issue, but the split is hidden from most voters. Big business wants illegally immigrated workers because they are CHEAPER than Americans, or even legal immigrants. They want the illegal immigrants to COME here, but they don’t want them to become LEGAL, because they can be treated almost as slaves since they are not legal; reporting abusive labor practices would get them deported but would not change those practices. The ONLY way to stop people from being brought in illegally is to PUNISH the people who HIRE them; but the same lobbyists who pay for ads to rile up voters to keep illegals from becoming legal, and presumably to try to catch them at the border, ALSO pressure legislators NOT TO ENFORCE the laws against HIRING illegals — that is, the laws which THEY are breaking and which BRING illegal immigrants here.

    • dpaano

      Don’t we pay their salaries? Why don’t our politicians listen to the people that they actually work for and not their special interest groups? This is another reason why we need to take money out of politics!!! We need our politicians to listen to their constituents as they are supposed to do!!! If they can’t do that, then we need to stop paying them with OUR taxpayer money!!