Senate Democrats

Senate Republicans Are Playing Politics on Immigration

Senate Republicans’ immigration amendments to the budget are part of an effort to use immigration as a wedge issue in the 2008 elections. But it hasn’t worked. Poll after poll has shown that most Americans do not support their divisive, extreme position on immigration and instead support tough, fair, and practical comprehensive immigration reform. Results at the ballot box for immigration hard-liners have been hard to come by, even in the Republican Presidential primary. Democrats support comprehensive immigration reform and believe we should be legislating on this important issue instead of playing politics.

Republicans in Congress are trying to use immigration as wedge issue in 2008 elections:

Senate Republicans Unveiled Package of Immigration Bills to Force Democrats to Get on Record on the Issue. “In the Senate, a group of mostly conservative Republicans last week unveiled a package of legislation to crack down on illegal immigration and secure the border. They, too, said they would use procedural tactics to get Democrats on the record on the volatile immigration issue.”  [Associated Press, 3/11/08]

Senator Cornyn Said Introduction of Anti-Immigration Bills More of a Signal Than About Getting Anything Done. Senator Cornyn told Capitol News Connection, “I think this is more of a signal than it is done with a realistic hope that we’re actually going to get it done before the Presidential election.” [Capitol News Connection, 3/6/08]

House Republicans Have Forced a Series of Votes on Immigration in Bid to Hurt Democratic Candidates in November. “Seeking an early edge for next year’s elections, House Republicans have forced several immigration votes on seemingly unrelated legislation since Democrats took control in January. Republicans want to keep forcing Democrats to take votes that could be seen as favoring illegal immigrants. Party leaders say they will keep finding ways to relate nearly everything the House does this year back to immigration, no matter how big of a stretch. The hope is that a pro-immigrant voting record could hurt vulnerable freshman candidates, including Arizona’s Gabrielle Giffords and Harry Mitchell. ‘Many votes on this issue will have one purpose and one purpose only: to get political adversaries on the record for the purposes of a future campaign commercial,’ said David Wasserman, who analyzes House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report in Washington.” [Arizona Republic, 10/10/07]

GOP House Members Are Trying to Use Immigration as an Election Year Wedge Issue, Believe It Will Be Key Issue in Certain Districts. “House Republicans are trying to force action on a Democratic-written immigration enforcement measure, the latest GOP attempt to elevate the volatile issue into an election-year wedge… ‘I think it makes it harder for the majority to do nothing,’ Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla, said of the idea last week. ‘On a district-by-district basis, there will be places where this is an important issue.’” [Associated Press, 3/11/08]

But public opinion is against their extreme approach to immigration:

Majority of Americans Supported Giving Immigrants Who Have Been in the U.S. for More than Two Years a Path to Citizenship. A May New York Times/CBS News poll showed 62 percent of respondents said illegal immigrants who have been in the U.S. for two years or more should be allowed to apply for legal residency. [New York Times, 5/25/07]

  • Immigration Reform Including Permanent Residency for Illegal Immigrants Has Bipartisan Support. “A new CBS News/New York Times Poll finds most Americans surveyed support measures contained in the bill, including a guest worker program and the possibility of permanent residency for illegal immigrants who have lived and worked in the U.S. About half support changing the immigration system to give priority to immigrants based on background rather than family ties. Unlike other issues (like the war in Iraq) which typically have reflected partisan polarization, support from the public for these reforms is, for the most part, bipartisan.” [CBS News/New York Times, 5/25/07]

60 Percent of American Said That They Support Giving Illegal Immigrants a Path to Citizenship. A December 2007 L.A. Times/Bloomberg Poll, found that 60 percent of Americans support a proposal to allow illegal immigrants who have been living and working in the United States for a number of years, and who do not have a criminal record, to start on a path to citizenship by registering that they are in the country, paying a fine, getting fingerprinted, and learning English, among other requirements. Just 15 percent opposed the proposal. [LA Times/Bloomberg Poll, 12/3/07]

Two-Thirds of Americans Supported Allowing Illegal Immigrants to Apply for a Visa If they Paid a Fine, Showed a Clean Work Record and Passed a Criminal Background Check.  A May 2007 CBS News/NY Times poll found 67 percent of Americans favor allowing illegal immigrants who came into the country before January to apply for a four-year visa that could be renewed, as long as they pay a $5,000 fine, a fee, show a clean work record and pass a criminal background check. [CBS News/NY Times Poll, 5/18-5/23/07]

80 Percent of Americans Favored a Program Allowing Illegal Immigrants Already in the U.S. to Apply for Citizenship If They Had a Job and Paid Back Taxes. According to a May 2007 CNN/Opinion Research poll, Americans favored creating a program that would allow illegal immigrants already living in the United States for a number of years to stay in this country and apply for U.S. citizenship if they had a job and paid back taxes by a margin of 80-19. [CNN/Opinion Research Poll, 5/4/07-5/6/07]

Voters in the Most Solidly Republican State Have Softened on Immigration. “It appears Utahns are softening up on a get-tough approach to immigration. Just last month, 63 percent favored repealing a law that gives in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants at Utah’s public colleges and universities. But a new poll shows that now Utahns are pretty evenly split on the issue. The poll conducted Saturday for the Deseret Morning News and KSL-TV shows that 41 percent want to keep the in-state tuition law on the books, while 51 percent want it overturned.” [Deseret Morning News, 2/17/08]

Voters are more concerned about issues like the economy and health care than immigration:

Republicans Hoped Immigration Would Be Election Issue, but Voters Are More Concerned With State of the Economy. “Experts following the immigration debate claim Republicans had hoped illegal immigration would become a wedge issue between the two parties in the 2008 presidential election. ‘A number of candidates have interpreted the fact that immigration is important that this is a good issue for demagogy, but that has fallen pretty flat with voters,’ said Cecilia Munoz of the National Council of La Raza. Voters across the country overwhelmingly and consistently have named the economy as their number one issue, in exit poll data from Super Tuesday and subsequent primaries.” [Chicago Tribune, 3/9/08]

Immigration Issue Eclipsed by Economy and Healthcare, Even Among Republicans. “At the outset of the presidential race, immigration emerged as a hot-button issue among Republicans… But the issue was later eclipsed by voter concerns over the economy and health care… ‘Immigration is a dud issue,’ Houston-area Republican pollster David Hill wrote in an op-ed article. ‘Immigration baiters like Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani went to the showers early. Someone should ask: if the immigration issue is such a killer issue, why are its staunchest advocates such losers.’” [McClatchy, 2/25/08]

Only 4% of Americans Said Immigration is Most Important Issue.  Only 4% of poll respondents cited immigration as their top concern in a CBS News/New York Times poll that asked 1266 Americans from across the nation, “What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?" [CBS News/New York Times; Polling Report, 2/24/08]

Only 10% of Americans Believe Immigration Should Be the Nation’s Top Priority. Only 10% of respondents listed immigration in response to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll asking them, “Let me list some issues that have been proposed for the federal government to address. Please tell me which one of these items you think should be the top priority for the federal government…” [NBC News/Wall Street Journal; Polling Report, 1/22/08]

Immigration has not been a winning issue for Republicans at the ballot box:

Republican Candidates Who Have Relied on Immigration As a Key Issue Have Not Succeeded, While Those Who Took a Softer Tone Have. “Republicans such as Mr. Oberweis remain convinced that illegal immigration is a winning issue. And if the electorate were comprised mostly of Internet screechers and cable news anchors, they might be right. But the fact that Mr. McCain, the Presidential candidate most closely associated with immigration tolerance, has outlasted Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee and other immigration hardliners, should be an indication that other issues are foremost in the minds of even GOP voters.” [Wall Street Journal, Editorial,3/11/08]

Immigration Has Been a ‘Dud’ Issue for Republicans, With those Campaigning Strongly on it Fairing Poorly. “In the end, immigration appears to be a ‘dud’ issue for Republican candidates, said Republican pollster David Hill, whose Houston-area firm has conducted polling for Republican candidates since the 1980s. Tom Tancredo, a Republican congressman from Colorado, ran on an anti-illegal immigration platform. Exit polls in Florida showed Mitt Romney may have been hurt by his anti-illegal immigration rhetoric.” [Houston Chronicle, 3/9/08]

In November, Virginia Voters Rejected GOP’s Extreme Stance on Immigration. “Voters across Virginia chose candidates in state and local elections yesterday not out of anger over illegal immigration but based on party affiliation, a preference for moderation and strong views on such key issues as residential growth and traffic congestion… ‘I did not think that immigration in and of itself would carry the day,’ said Sen. Richard L. Saslaw (Fairfax), who would become majority leader under Democratic control. ‘The results are proving that, while immigration is a concern to people — and it should be — it is not returning the votes that they thought that it would.’ Greg Blevins, a 17-year resident of Prince William, might have been a typical voter deciding yesterday’s crucial contests. Although concerned about enforcement of immigration law, Blevins said he voted for both Democrats and Republicans because his main concerns also include roads and schools, for which he is willing to pay higher taxes.” [Washington Post, 11/7/07]