A survey released on Thursday by the Brookings Institution and the Public Religion Research Institute shows that six in 10 Americans believe that undocumented immigrants should be given a path to citizenship. The survey showed that 63% of Americans favored a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, while 21% favored deportation, and 14% favored “legal status,” but not citizenship.
However, the survey, which studied religion, values, and immigration reform, also revealed that immigration reform is not a top priority for American citizens. When respondents ranked issues that should be a priority for the president and Congress, immigration reform was sixth out of seven topics.
Moreover, the survey revealed a deep divide between Americans on the role of immigrants in American society. Fifty-four percent felt that a growing number of immigrants strengthens American society, while 40% felt that a growing number of immigrants threatens traditional American values. The survey also revealed that 84% of respondents felt that it was “important” or “very important” to keep families together in immigration, showing support for family-based visas. Other issues that were ranked high in importance were promoting national security (84%), respecting the dignity of every person (82%), ensuring fairness to taxpayers (77%) and respecting the rule of law (77%).
The support for immigration reform that offers a more comprehensive and effective pathway to citizenship by the American people is significant, as it may help propel Congress to more effective and cooperative bi-partisan action on the issue. The appearance of public support has also come at a crucial time, as the Gang of Eight continues to work on its immigration reform bill, which would provide a pathway to citizenship contingent on increased border security.
The presence of public support for any legislation is important for Congress, as it gives legislators legitimacy for their actions and justifies them. Moreover, it provides Congress incentive to compromise and to abandon their partisan interests in favor of the American people.
A successful pathway to citizenship, one that the Gang of Eight bill’s framework attempts to create, will allow illegal immigrants that want to be a part of society and are capable of being productive American citizens to receive legal citizenship. The Brookings survey results show that many Americans agree that we need to provide a path to citizenship to illegal immigrants to solve the issues we currently face with our immigration laws, which is the sentiment and support that is needed in order for Congress to successfully pursue efficient immigration reform.
With the support of the American people, Congress can shirk its partisan and self-interested banter and come together in order to push the reform our country needs to have a healthier and more successful immigration system.