What Do the Polls Tell Us About Immigration Policy?

I have always been deeply suspicious of claims that Republicans need to get behind amnesty and mass low-skilled immigration for political reasons. Apart from the fact that political gain is a bad reason to sign on to any massive change in social policy, the polls that amnesty advocates rely on are consistently suspect. Today’s example comes from Politico, where reporter Seung Min Kim seizes on a poll of Congressman Steve King’s constituents to suggest that amnesty opponents are in trouble:

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has been one of Capitol Hill’s loudest opponents of immigration reform – particularly toward a way to legalize the 11 million immigrants living illegally in the United States.

But it turns out that voters in King’s northwest Iowa district hold pretty friendly views on legalization and ultimately citizenship for undocumented immigrants, a new poll finds.

A poll being released later Wednesday by the American Action Network shows that 68 percent of voters in Iowa’s Fourth Congressional District supports an “earned pathway to legal status,” while 65 percent support an “earned pathway to citizenship.” …

Support for a path to legalization goes even higher when specific requirements for that legal status is outlined, the poll finds.

In King’s district, 79 percent of voters would support a plan that would allow a path to legalization once steps are taken on border security, and if immigrants pass background checks, pay fines as well as current and back taxes, learn English, get “in the back of the line” of immigrants waiting to be admitted into the United States, and are barred from public benefits. That broadly reflects the requirements outlined in the Senate Gang of Eight bill.

But wait! The proposal laid out by the pollster, a pro-amnesty organization, bears no relationship at all to the Senate bill, contrary to Ms. Kim’s assertion. A reader writes:

How can Seung Min Kim possibly write this in good conscience? By now doesn’t she have to know there are almost no back tax requirements, you can just enroll in an English class to fulfill that requirement, fines can (and likely would) be waived for a number of reasons, USCIS will never be able to do thorough background checks of so many so quickly, and many don’t really have to get in the back of the line? And she implies border security would come first, which is what Americans support but the bill does not do. In fact it sounds like nothing the poll says about the Senate bill is actually true. Not to mention all the other things in the 1,200 page bill the poll doesn’t ask about.

This is what we’ve been seeing over and over again with the polls. The pollsters test the talking points, not what the bill actually does. Isn’t she an immigration reporter? The quality of journalism covering this debate has been atrocious. They’re just cheerleaders.

That’s true, but of course the quality of journalism nowadays is atrocious across the board. For the record, the pollsters did test a proposal that is completely different from the Senate bill. This is from the actual survey:

Respondents were presented with the following reform proposal, and were told it would only beimplemented after steps have been taken to secure the border:

“…allowing undocumented immigrants the opportunity to earn legal status if they pass a criminal background check, pay a fine, pay current and back taxes, learn English, go to the back of the line in theapplication process, and are not allowed to receive any taxpayer paid benefits.”

Every element of this description is incorrect, including the last one: newly legalized immigrants would immediately be eligible for all state and local welfare benefits. Moreover, given that the Obama administration has been recruiting illegal aliens to sign up for food stamps for years, there is no doubt they would receive a lot of federal benefits, too, no matter what the law purports to say.

Republican politicians would be stupid to rely on this sort of push polling. Better they should spend their time revealing the truth about the disaster that made its way through the Senate. In the meantime, there are other surveys, in addition to the ones Paul highlighted yesterday, that suggest political opportunity for Republican opponents of the Senate bill.

In particular, several recent polls suggest that President Obama is rapidly losing support among both the white and black working class. This shouldn’t be a surprise, given the disastrous effects his policies have had on working class Americans. But imagine how much this trend could be accentuated if Republican politicians consistently sound the theme that so far, only Jeff Sessions and a few commentators (like us) have really emphasized: that the Senate’s immigration bill is a dagger to the heart of working Americans. As Tony Lee writes at the link above:

[T]he unemployment rate in black communities rose to 13.7% in June while Obama has championed a comprehensive immigration reform bill that the Congressional Budget Office determined would devastate the wages of working class Americans. The Black American Leadership Alliance (BALA) recently organized a rally in Washington, D.C. protesting the immigration bill, uniting progressives and conservatives of all races in opposition to comprehensive immigration reform. BALA founder Leah Durant told Breitbart News that blacks on the lower rungs of the economic ladder would be hurt most if the Senate’s immigration bill became law.

Unless the law of supply and demand has somehow been repealed, that last proposition is indisputably true. Imagine what would happen if Republicans concentrated their fire on a cynical Democrat bill that is supported principally by interest groups hoping to capitalize on a virtually unlimited supply of cheap labor, and took a strong stand on behalf of American citizens!

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