If the architects of the comprehensive immigration reform plan expected to reap political favor for their ability to reach a bipartisan compromise, they will find themselves disappointed. A Rasmussen study shows that a near-majority oppose the plan altogether, with the rest split between acceptance and uncertainty:
Initial public reaction to the immigration proposal being debated in the Senate is decidedly negative.
A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey conducted Monday and Tuesday night shows that just 26% of American voters favor passage of the legislation. Forty-eight percent (48%) are opposed while 26% are not sure. The bi-partisan agreement among influential Senators and the White House has been met with bi-partisan opposition among the public. The measure is opposed by 47% of Republicans, 51% of Democrats, and 46% of those not affiliated with either major party.
The next part of the report shows that Congress as a whole may have missed the pulse of the nation. Instead of focusing on normalization, they could improve their standing immensely -- in both parties -- by addressing border security as a primary and separate initiative:
The enforcement side of the debate is clearly where the public passion lies on the issue. Seventy-two percent (72%) of voters say it is Very Important for “the government to improve its enforcement of the borders and reduce illegal immigration.” That view is held by 89% of Republicans, 65% of Democrats, and 63% of unaffiliated voters.
In view of these numbers, tackling the problem in an integrated manner is a huge mistake on both sides of the aisle. The notion that the border issue cannot be divorced from addressing the status of the extant illegals only seems to hold true inside the Beltway. In the rest of the nation, voters appear to easily distinguish between the two -- and probably wonder why their elected representatives cannot.
Since I still have a membership at Rasmussen, I have access to the crosstabs -- and they tell a very interesting story. Not a single demographic in the study favors this proposal, except under Race:Other. Democrats oppose it 51-28. Republicans oppose it 47-25. Men and women both clearly oppose it. Only people ages 30-39 come close to overcoming opposition, 34-32 in opposition.
But when the subject turns to border security, the numbers turn even more dramatic. Every single demographic -- race, gender, age, and political orientation -- has majorities that show border security as "very important". The only one below 60% is Race:Other again, but almost all of the others score in the 70s or higher. While a number of demographics score the importance of legalizing illegal aliens as at least somewhat important, it carries far less enthusiasm than border security.
The data is so compelling, one has to wonder why Congress hasn't realized that they could offer a win for everyone by focusing exclusively on border security as an entrée to immigration reform. They literally would please every possible constituency by doing so, and would almost overnight dial down the emotion over the rest of the issue. Only in DC could the governing class be so out of touch with the national mood.
UPDATE: The news is not all bad for comprehensive reform. From the Rasmussen summary:
Still, 65% of voters would be willing to support a compromise including a “very long path to citizenship” provided that “the proposal required the aliens to pay fines and learn English” and that the compromise “would truly reduce the number of illegal aliens entering the country.” The proposal, specifically described as a compromise, was said to include “strict employer penalties for hiring illegal aliens, building a barrier along the Mexican border and other steps to significantly reduce the number of illegal aliens entering the United States.”
It would seem that the key would be to win the confidence of the voters that this bill really does those things. If it does and it does it plainly and with border enforcement first (along with "a barrier along the Mexican border"), then there is obvious support for it. There's a lot more for handling this in two completely separate phases, though, which seems to undermine the notion that only a comprehensive plan can unite the nation. Clearly, a borders-only bill to start would have tremendous support, given the data here.