Washington, D.C.-Everyone, both on the left and the right agree that our immigration system is broken and in dire need of an overhaul. What they cannot agree on is how that reform should shape up and whether immigrants who entered the country illegally or overstayed their visas should be given a pathway to citizenship. While lawmakers may be deeply divided on the issue of immigration reform, the American people are not and strongly approve of reform which includes a pathway to citizenship according to a new study.
The study released today by the Public Religion Research Institute showed that 63 percent of Americans believe that undocumented immigrants should be given the chance to become legal residents after meeting specific criteria. This statistic has remained unchanged since earlier this year when the same percentage said they approved of a pathway to citizenship. Roughly 6 in 10 Republicans (60 percent) and Independents (57 percent) approve of a pathway to citizenship while 7 in 10 Democrats (73 percent) are in favor of the legislation.
The majority of Americans also approve of the DREAM Act, legislation that allows children of immigrants who attended school in the U.S. or are members of the military to become legally recognized citizens. The survey found that 61 percent of Americans approve of the legislation.
Of those surveyed, 14 percent approve of allowing undocumented immigrants the right to become permanent legal residents with no pathway to citizenship. Eighteen percent approve of tracking down and removing all immigrants who are in the states illegally.
That pathway to citizenship that is facing such tough opposition and keeping immigration reform in limbo is no easy lift for an immigrant. Any immigrant who wishes to pursue legal residency or citizenship will have to meet very strict requirements, but they would be allowed to legally work and live in the U.S.
First they must apply for temporary legal status, pay a penalty and back taxes, learn English, maintain a job and pass a citizenship test among other things. This highly contested pathway to citizenship could take an immigrant up to 13 years to complete so unlike what critics say it is not really amnesty. Instead, it is a long and arduous process.
The majority of those surveyed, 68 percent said this pathway to citizenship is too long and difficult, but 24 percent said that was the right amount of time. Only 5 percent said it was too short a waiting period.
Republicans in the House have said they would be more likely to approve legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for permanent legal status, but with no chance to become citizens. The Obama administration opposes this notion, insisting it would create a permanent underclass without the same rights as American citizens.
As lawmakers continue to haggle over immigration reform, the large fraction of Americans, 41 percent, say that it is a priority for the Obama Administration in 2014. But if lawmakers can’t put aside their differences and compromise, apparently a dirty word in Washington, they risk not only angering immigrants who will be affected by the law, but also Americans.