Jeremy Beck's picture


  by  Jeremy Beck

The Washington Post is confounded by its own poll. Only 18 percent of Americans support the Gang of Eight's legalization-first approach to illegal immigration, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll. Yet the Post began its story on the poll with, "Comprehensive immigration reform moves to the Senate floor next week with solid overall support from the public."

How does 18 percent translate into "solid overall support"? The Post reporters drew their conclusion based on 58 percent of poll respondents saying they would support "a program giving undocumented immigrants now living in the United States the right to live here legally if they pay a fine and meet other requirements."

Pollsters can find Americans open to limited amnesty if they add that certain conditions must be met. One of those conditions is that the government get serious about enforcement to prevent future illegal immigration. The Post / ABC poll asked:

Q: Which of these would you prefer?

  • 34%: Enact stricter border control now and put off path to legal status;
  • 18%: Enact a path to legal status now and put off stricter border control;
  • 33%: Both
  • 11%: Neither
  • 4%: Don't know

The bill passed out of the Senate Judiciary committee takes the second approach. The main benefits for illegal aliens (legal status and work permits) are given before any enforcement. There are no hard triggers to guarantee improved enforcement after that.

Regardless of where the American people are on the general idea of amnesty for illegal aliens, most Americans oppose the approach in the Senate bill, which is amnesty first, enforcement later or never.

The Gang of Eight members on the Judiciary Committee held together to defeat every amendment that would have made the "path to legal status" conditional on effective enforcement. They preserved the 1986 template of their bill. As far as public support for the legalization-first approach, the Post's poll got it right; the reporters got it wrong.

JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA

Legal Immigration
Public Opinion
Illegal Immigration
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