The fight over immigration reform in the House has zeroed in on Majority Leader Eric Cantor and the anti-amnesty attacks of his tea party primary challenger this week, but a recent analysis of polling among a broad range of conservatives indicates Cantor and Republicans are not in favor of “amnesty,” but they are in favor of citizenship.
On Wednesday, Cantor’s tea party GOP primary opponent Dave Brat continued his campaign against Cantor’s alleged support for amnesty on the steps of the Virginia Capitol, according to The Associated Press. Brat cited specific immigration proposals Cantor has expressed support for as broad calls for amnesty, like citizenship for children brought in illegally by their parents or for military enlistees, neither of which have been brought to the floor by the majority leader.
“I’ve been telling the president, why can’t we do the things we agree on rather than to bring up this whole amnesty bill?” Cantor said Wednesday on Fox News, referencing the White House and Democrats’ support for the bipartisan immigration reform bill that passed the Senate last summer.
Cantor, Speaker John Boehner and other House Republicans have said that the lower chamber would take a slower, more piecemeal approach to immigration reform rather than vote on the Senate’s comprehensive approach.
“Eric Cantor saying he opposes amnesty is like Barack Obama saying he opposes Obamacare,” Brat said about the majority leader’s opposition to what Cantor campaign spokesman Ray Allen called “blanket amnesty.” Allen said Brat is “simply lying” about Cantor’s support of such a term, and that the majority leader has consistently opposed blanket amnesty while recognizing the need to fix the “broken immigration system.”
Polls that specifically omit the word “amnesty” in place of specific immigration proposals reveal a wider breadth of support for immigration reform than opposition groups let on.
A recent analysis of Fox News and tea party voter polls found that while conservatives are opposed to the word “amnesty,” they recognize the need for changes in the current system that most consider broken. They support individual reforms, including citizenship, when they’re worded without the hot-button term.
Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported on a Fox News poll that gave respondents a set of options including deportation, guest worker status and earned citizenship without the “amnesty” moniker. Sixty-eight percent of total respondents and 60 percent of specifically Republican respondents selected options in favor of citizenship.
“Do you favor or oppose allowing the 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the country to remain in the country and eventually — years down the road — qualify for U.S. citizenship, as long as they meet certain requirements like paying back taxes, learning English, and passing a background check?” the poll asked.
Seventy-four percent of all respondents, including 67 percent of Republicans (or two out of three) chose undocumented immigrant retention with the above-named stipulations for eventual citizenship.
“Fox has been polling this question since at least 2011 without much change in the results,” the Journal reported. “And Fox’s findings have been replicated by other polls over the years, which consistently show that a majority of GOP voters support comprehensive immigration reform.”
Another poll released two weeks ago by the Tea Party Express found that among 400 self-identified tea party voters, 71 percent want Congress to tackle immigration in 2014.
Similar to the Fox News poll, 76 percent favored allowing illegal immigrants to stay if they “pay penalties, pay back taxes, pass a criminal background check, and learn English and American civics,” along with implementing new border security measures like those proposed in the Senate bill. According to the legislation and its Republican drafters, including Sen. Marco Rubio, green card statuses would not be granted until such measures were put in place.
A final 69 percent said they would vote for a candidate touting reform efforts and border security over one in favor of strictly increased security.
“We’ve argued before that many polls peddled by anti-immigration groups or MSM pollsters (convinced Republicans are anti-immigration reform) are useless because either they use terms like “amnesty” or give no specifics about the sort of plans at issue,” Washington Post conservative Jennifer Rubin recently wrote.
“Once again we see how misleading these surveys can be.”