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New Immigration Poll: Voters Want Reform, Not Rhetoric

May 1, 2007

On this date a year ago, more than one million immigrants to the United States took to the streets in major cities, including Seattle, skipping work and school in a national boycott to call attention to their contributions to the U.S. economy and to ask for immigration reform. Today, the reforms they seek are still elusive, but public opinion is on their side, according to a new survey.

The survey finds voters want immigration reform no matter what their political leanings, and that Congress can't stall much longer on the issue. Seventy-five percent of those surveyed believe the U.S. should have a system that allows undocumented workers to register, pay a fine and receive temporary work status, and a multi-year process they can go through to earn U.S. citizenship. A majority also was in favor of stronger border security. Rick Johnson, one of the survey authors, says people are tired of talking, and they want to see some action from lawmakers.

“We just heard it across all different segments of folks -- by race, by geography, by gender -- that people are just starved for real, thoughtful reform.”

Two survey firms worked together on the poll, one known for Republican research and the other with a Democratic agenda. Only one-fourth of those surveyed favored "attrition,” which is the idea of making it so tough on undocumented workers that they leave the country on their own. Illegal immigrants make up about 5 percent of the U.S. labor force.

Johnson feels many Americans don't see the human impact of immigration laws.

“They don't understand that families have been separated, and they certainly don't understand what it takes to try to get a family member into the United States legally. They don’t know what a huge challenge it is and how long those delays are.”

Lake Research Partners and The Tarrance Group conducted the poll mid-April for the National Immigration Forum in Washington, D.C. See the full results at www.immigrationforum.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA