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NYT: Immigration Bill Provisions Gain Wide Support in Poll

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  • Ram Lau
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/25/us/25poll.html May 25, 2007 Immigration Bill Provisions Gain Wide Support in Poll By JULIA PRESTON and MARJORIE CONNELLY As
    Message 1 of 2 , May 25, 2007
      May 25, 2007
      Immigration Bill Provisions Gain Wide Support in Poll

      As opponents from the right and left challenge an immigration bill
      before Congress, there is broad support among Americans — Democrats,
      Republicans and independents alike — for the major provisions in the
      legislation, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

      Taking a pragmatic view on a divisive issue, a large majority of
      Americans want to change the immigration laws to allow illegal
      immigrants to gain legal status and to create a new guest worker
      program to meet future labor demands, the poll found.

      At the same time, Americans have mixed feelings about whether the
      recent wave of immigration has been beneficial to the country, the
      survey found, and they are sharply divided over how open the United
      States should be to future immigrants.

      Half of Americans say they are ready to transform the process for
      selecting new immigrants as proposed in the bill, giving priority to
      job skills and education levels over family ties to the United States,
      which have been the foundation of the immigration system for four decades.

      Point by point, large majorities expressed support for measures in the
      legislation that has been under debate since Monday in the Senate.

      The nationwide telephone poll did not ask respondents about the
      immigration bill itself, but there were questions about its most
      significant provisions. It was conducted May 18 to 23 with 1,125
      adults, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three
      percentage points.

      The bill, which is backed by President Bush and a bipartisan group of
      senators, would allow illegal immigrants who were in the United States
      before Jan. 1 of this year to obtain legal status by paying fines and
      passing background checks.

      Two-thirds of those polled said illegal immigrants who had a good
      employment history and no criminal record should gain legal status as
      the bill proposes, which is by paying at least $5,000 in fines and
      fees and receiving a renewable four-year visa.

      Many Republican lawmakers have rejected this plan, calling it amnesty
      that rewards immigrants who broke the law when they entered the United
      States. But the poll showed that differences are not great between
      Republicans and Democrats on this issue, with 66 percent of
      Republicans in the poll favoring the legalization proposal, as well as
      72 percent of Democrats and 65 percent of independents.

      Rick Nuñez, a 29-year-old quality control technician from Pennsauken,
      N. J., who identified himself as a Republican, said in a follow-up
      telephone call that he favored a legalization plan.

      "Illegal immigrants are imbedded in our nation, so allowing them to
      apply for a work visa would be a good way to draw them in and set a
      path for them to become legal," said Mr. Nuñez, whose family came from
      Puerto Rico. "If they have been working here and are law abiding and
      can contribute to our country, they should be allowed to stay and
      become citizens."

      Most of those polled agreed that illegal immigrants should eventually
      be allowed to apply to become American citizens. But 59 percent said
      illegal immigrants should be considered for citizenship only after
      legal immigrants who have played by the rules.

      Under the Senate bill, illegal immigrants would have to wait eight
      years before they could become permanent residents and at least 13
      years to become citizens.

      Two-thirds of Americans in the survey favored creating a guest-worker
      program for future immigrants. The bill would create a
      temporary-worker program in which immigrants would come for three
      stints of two years each, going home for one year between each stint
      and returning home for good after the third.

      More than half of those who favored the guest-worker program said the
      workers should be allowed to apply to become permanent immigrants and
      eventually American citizens, if they maintain a strong work history
      and commit no crimes. About a third of those who favored the program
      disagreed, saying guest workers should be required to return home
      after their temporary period.

      The bill does not include a path to citizenship for guest workers. In
      the debate, Democrat senators have sharply criticized the
      temporary-worker plan, saying it would create an underclass of easily
      exploited low-skilled workers. On Wednesday, senators voted to cut
      back the number of guest workers to 200,000 from the 400,000 proposed
      in the bill.

      The bill also calls for reinforcing the country's borders, cracking
      down on employers who hire illegal immigrants and eliminating the
      backlog of visa applications from aspiring legal immigrants. In the
      poll, 75 percent of those who responded favored tougher penalties for
      employers of illegal workers, and 82 percent said the federal
      government should do more to reinforce the border. But only 15 percent
      favored fences as the main method to reduce illegal border crossings.

      The poll showed that Americans are uncertain about the benefits of the
      most recent wave of immigration, and divided over how many immigrants
      should come in the future. Fifty-seven percent said recent immigrants
      had made a contribution to the United States. But 35 percent said that
      in the long run, the new immigrants would make American society worse,
      while only 28 percent said they would make it better.

      A plurality of 48 percent favored imposing some controls on
      immigration. But large minorities on either side disagreed, with a
      quarter of respondents saying the United States should open its
      borders to all immigrants, and a quarter saying that the borders
      should be completely closed. These polarized positions may help
      explain the acrimony of the immigration debate across the nation.

      By large margins, people in the poll are aware that the majority of
      the immigrants who have arrived in recent years are illegal, and 61
      percent said that illegal immigration was a very serious problem. A
      large majority, 70 percent of respondents, said they believed that
      illegal immigrants weaken the American economy because they use public
      services but do not pay corresponding taxes.

      "This has nothing to do with any particular person or group of people,
      but housing and schooling are going to illegal immigrants," said
      Barbara Jackson, 55, a visiting nurse from the Bronx who identified
      herself as a Democrat. "You build affordable housing and then put
      someone in it who hasn't paid their dues. Do Americans' tax dollars
      pay for us to be second?"

      Economists have found that many undocumented workers have Social
      Security and other taxes deducted from their paychecks, and have
      contributed as much as $7 billion to the Social Security
      Administration while claiming no benefits because of their illegal
      status. But Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative
      group, has reported that low-skilled illegal immigrant families cause
      an overall fiscal drain.

      Among those polled, a majority of 51 percent favored overhauling the
      American immigration system to make it more attuned to economic
      demands, giving priority to job skills and educational accomplishment.
      Only 34 percent said that immigrants with family ties in the United
      States should take precedence.

      Family reunification has been the cornerstone of the immigration
      system since 1965. The bill proposes to move to a merit system in
      which points would be assigned for work skills and education.

      "I think this country would benefit from having people relocate here
      who have an educational background that would be an asset to the
      country," said Delores Mitchell, 66, a retired social worker from
      Highland Hills, Ohio, who identified herself as an independent.

      "I just don't feel it should be based on whether family is here or
      not. We need people who have more job skills," Ms. Mitchell said in a
      follow-up interview to the poll.

      Most Americans in the poll said they believed the country will be
      served if immigrants can work legally. "When immigrants do take jobs,
      they're hard workers," said Anna Cooper, 55, a homemaker in Venice,
      Fla., who identified herself as an independent. "They just want to
      work, that's the bottom line. They need a paycheck to take care of
      their families."

      Megan Thee, Marina Stefan and Dalia Sussman contributed reporting.
    • Ram Lau
      Shame on Lou Dobbs and the hate groups that he associates himself with.
      Message 2 of 2 , May 25, 2007
        Shame on Lou Dobbs and the hate groups that he associates himself with.
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