Public Policy Polling conducted a poll of Florida voters earlier this month regarding immigration reform, and there are a number of interesting results. I'd also like to highlight the specific wording used in the poll, because the actual questions asked have a big impact on how people respond to the very complicated issue of immigration reform.
First, immigration reform is definitely a priority for Floridians, with 86% of respondents saying that it's "very" or "somewhat" important to "fix the immigration system" this year.
The poll also shows that Floridians want immigration reform to include secure borders and a process for people who are here illegally to register for legal status, with a "long list of requirements" to be met for over a decade before they could be eligible for citizenship.
Regarding the specific bill currently being debated in the Senate - commonly referred to as the "Gang of Eight" bill - this is how the poll describes it:
There is bipartisan immigration reform legislation being debated in Washington. The bill would secure our borders, block employers from hiring undocumented immigrants, and make sure that undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. with no criminal record register for legal status. If a long list of requirements is met over a decade, it provides eligibility for a path to citizenship. Would you support or oppose this proposal?
When the question is asked in this precise way, poll respondents are overwhelmingly in favor, with 72% strongly or somewhat supporting it.
Of course, Public Policy Polling's description of the Gang of Eight bill is no guarantee that the final version of the Senate bill will actually accomplish these things.
The poll also asked this question:
Do you support or oppose an immigration reform plan that ensures undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. pay a penalty, learn English, pass a criminal background check, pay taxes, and wait a minimum of thirteen years before they can be eligible for citizenship?
Again, this question got broad support, with 71% either strongly or somewhat supporting it, and 54% saying they would be more likely to vote for an elected official who votes for this legislation.
As I stated earlier, this poll is a loud and clear signal that Floridians want immigration reform, but that immigration reform must include secure borders.
There is also broad support for a system that would allow people who are here illegally to register to be legal workers. While the poll didn't ask the question specifically, I think it's reasonable to extrapolate from these results that there is not a lot of support for attempting to deport illegal immigrants en masse.
Further, poll respondents wanted these workers to not just register, but pay penalties, pay taxes, learn English, and pass criminal background checks, and to satisfy all these requirements for over a decade before they would be eligible for citizenship. This is the "legalization" that Senator Marco Rubio has been discussing in recent interviews: a process by which illegal immigrants could register and meet requirements to be legal workers, not necessarily legal citizens. I've seen a lot of anger online about Rubio's involvement with this bill, and there have been a lot of misinterpretations and distortions just in the past week.
Rubio admits he could have been more artful in his language in the Univision interview, however he explains as he has in the past that the initial legalization is only temporary and is not the same thing as a path to citizenship. He tells Hannity that the initial legalization is TEMPORARY and only for 6 years and is accompanied with fines. In order for them to get to the green card stage, which puts people on a path to PERMANENT legalization or citizenship, the border must be secured. In his vision of the bill there is no green card stage if the border isn't secured...From The Daily Caller:
I suspect part of the problem here is that people are conflating legalization with citizenship (I’m assuming that at least some of the people who are outraged are doing just that). Yes, legalization happens first — in order to identify who’s here. If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported. Otherwise, you’ll pay taxes and fines, etc. That makes you “legal,” but according to the bill, you’re not eligible for welfare, and still cannot even apply for citizenship until after the border has been certified to be secure — and you've waited in this provisional status for a decade.
Rubio has explained this process ad nauseam...I agree with the 86% of respondents who believe that immigration reform should be a priority this year. Whether the current "Gang of Eight" bill will actually be what Floridians answering this poll want - secure borders and strict requirements before citizenship - remains to be seen.
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