POLL: Majority Supports Legal Residency, But Not U.S. Citizenship for Illegal Immigrants

April 8, 2013

Amnesty supporters demonstrated over the weekend, demanding U.S. citizenship for an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants

DENVER – Most people say that foreigners who entered the U.S. illegally should be given legal residency in the country so long as they have otherwise followed the law, according to the results of a recent Rasmussen Reports survey.  However, a majority of those surveyed also say they oppose granting illegal immigrants U.S. citizenship. 

When asked Should those who enter U.S. illegally but otherwise obey laws be granted U.S. citizenship or legal status without citizenship?”, two-thirds of respondents (65 percent) said illegal immigrants should be given legal status, but not citizenship.  Fewer than one in five (18 percent) said illegal immigrants should get American citizenship – roughly the same number (17 percent) who said they were unsure.

Opposition to U.S. citizenship for illegal immigrants was strong among respondents from all demographic groups, as well as those in both major political parties and political independents.

Sixty-four percent of men said that those who entered the country illegally should be given legal status but not citizenship, as did 66 percent of women.

A large majority of Republicans (71 percent) and political independents (71 percent) held the view that illegal immigrants should not be given U.S. citizenship, as did a smaller majority of Democrats (55 percent).

Opposition to U.S. citizenship for those who entered the U.S. illegally was also strong among respondents between 18 and 34 years old (59 percent), those between 40 and 64 years of age (69 percent) and those over 65 (63 percent).

A majority of black (63 percent) and white (64 percent) respondents opposed granting U.S. citizenship to illegal immigrants, as did an even larger majority of those who did not identify themselves as either black or white (72 percent).

A majority of poll respondents (58 percent) also said they would oppose plans to give legal status to those who entered the U.S. illegally if the plan did not also include stricter border controls.

The Rassmussen Reports national poll surveyed 1,000 likely voters between April 1 and April 2, and has a margin of error of + / – 3 percentage points.

The results come as a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators known as the “Gang of Eight” is reportedly close to finalizing comprehensive legislation to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws.

The group includes Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colorado).

According to a Sunday CNN report, the “Gang of Eight” legislation will include a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, and the creation of a new border security commission tasked with “establishing and assessing a set of quantifiable criteria” to measure border security.  The proposed panel would be made up of “officials named by state and federal leaders.”

But specific details about the “Gang of Eight” plan remain sketchy, prompting concern from both Democrat and Republican lawmakers who fear that the expansive legislation is being developed outside the public view and without adequate input.

According to a report in The Daily Caller, Republican Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Mike Lee (R-Utah) called for transparency in a letter to the “Gang of Eight” released Friday.

“[W]e believe it is critical that the public and the entire Senate body be given adequate time to read and analyze the contents of any immigration bill put forth by the Majority,” they wrote.  “Our Committee has had only three hearings in recent months, barely touching on issues involving enforcement, border security or the creation of a temporary worker program.”

Meanwhile, thousands of amnesty supporters demonstrated around the country over the weekend, demanding a path to citizenship for the nations estimated 11 million illegal immigrants.

“These residents, if they can get to be permanent residents or citizens, they can take better jobs, they can buy houses, they can contribute more,” Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado told the local NBC affiliate at a South Florida rally where protestors waved Haitian, Panamanian and Guatemalan flags and placards paid for by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

Political observers expect lawmakers to take up immigration legislation when they return from the Congressional recess on Monday.

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