The Mix

Majority favors earned citizenship

Anti-immigrant readers, begin your conspiracy theories
One day after legislators returned to work, CNN released poll results indicating that a majority of Americans favor legalization for most illegal immigrants. CNN reports:
In the poll, released Tuesday, 77 percent of those responding favored allowing illegal immigrants who have been in United States for more than five years to stay and apply for citizenship if they have a job, and pay a fine and back taxes. Twenty percent said they opposed such a measure.
A majority opposed a proposal to allow iIlegal immigrants who have been in the United States for two to five years to stay on a temporary basis, without a chance to apply for U.S. citizenship. Fifty-four percent opposed that measure, and 40 percent favored it.
A proposal to deport illegal immigrants in the United States for less than two years was favored by 64 percent and opposed by 31 percent.
For the poll, 1,012 adult Americans were interviewed by telephone between Friday and Sunday; it has a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
This is consistent with most recent polls regarding earned citizenship. Earlier this year, both Time and CBS polls found that three out of four people thought illegal immigrants should be offered legal status if they have lived in the U.S. for a set number of years, spoke English, paid back taxes and had no criminal history; an L.A. Times poll found that the majority of people polled -- 66% -- favored a path to citizenship, while only 18% opposed it. We already know that the McCain-Kennedy bill, which would offer a path to citizenship, has majority support among legal immigrants, according to a poll conducted for New American Media last month. Several other polls, with the exception (duh) of the Fox "News" poll, showed similar leanings regarding legalization. (To read the stats yourself, Polling Report provides a list of immigration polls going back to 2001.)

What carries much more ambivalence are issues of border security and enforcement. Here's how some of those provisions fared in the CNN poll:

700-mile fence along the border: 47% oppose, 47% favor

Making illegal immigration a felony offense: 56% oppose, 39% favor

Increasing penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants: 68% favor, 27% oppose

It seems the public realizes that illegal immigrants are already woven into the fabric of American society. The question that remains is how to slow the tide of illegal immigration from here on out. As many AlterNet readers have suggested, that's an international issue that can't be solved by passing a law.
Maria Luisa Tucker is a staff writer at AlterNet and associate editor of the Columbia Journal of American Studies.
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