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Poll: Majority in KY Back Senate "Gang of Eight" Immigration Bill

PHOTO: Many immigrants say they'd be willing to follow the rigorous process outlined in the "Gang of Eight" legislation to become U.S. citizens. Courtesy of OneAmerica.
PHOTO: Many immigrants say they'd be willing to follow the rigorous process outlined in the "Gang of Eight" legislation to become U.S. citizens. Courtesy of OneAmerica.
June 17, 2013

FRANKFORT, Ky. - The so-called "Gang of Eight" immigration proposal in the U.S. Senate, which includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, has the backing of most Kentuckians, according to a new poll. Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of voters surveyed in Kentucky either "strongly or somewhat support" the legislation. That mirrors the trend among voters in 28 other states where polling was conducted.

Jonathan Bialosky, director of the Maxwell Street Legal Clinic for immigrants in Lexington, said he was surprised by the size of the majority.

"As someone who advocates for the rights of immigrants, I think this is an important issue and feel exactly the same way," he declared. "The current proposal isn't 100 percent perfect, certainly, but I do think it's a step in the right direction."

Pollster Tom Jensen said they found bipartisan support for the immigration proposal in blue and purple states as well in red states such as Kentucky.

"It's gotten a little depressing over the last few years in most of our issue polling, because everything we poll, either Democrats support it and Republicans don't, or Republicans support it and Democrats don't," the poll taker observed. "And it's a little bit uplifting to actually see something that Democrats and Republicans agree on."

The Gang of Eight legislation is being billed as a "tough but fair path to citizenship." It would require undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. to pay a penalty, learn English, pass a criminal background check, pay taxes and wait at least 13 years before they are eligible for citizenship.

Well over eight out of every ten voters polled said it was important for the U.S. to fix its immigration system this year (83 percent in Kentucky, 87 percent overall), a result not lost on pollster Brock McCleary.

"Republicans - conservative, moderate, whatever they may be - have found that impeding progress on reform, standing in the way of getting this problem solved, has really exacerbated it," he said.

As an advocate for immigrants, Bialosky said he's encouraged by support for the current proposal in the Senate, but he also worries that reform is often too focused on border security and labor.

"We need to do this wholesale, we need to take a commonsense approach and also have as the foremost concern the humanitarian needs of this population in our country," he declared.

The poll was conducted jointly by two polling firms, one Democratic and one Republican.

Poll results by state are at bit.ly/18CjMZiz.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY