As the legislative debate over immigration reform heats up once again, a central point of the political discussion will be whether or not to create a pathway to legal status for all or most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants now living in the United States.
But this time around the real game-changer is the considerable shift in public opinion on the issue.
CBS News reported that “Most Americans think illegal immigrants currently working in the United States should be allowed to stay either as guest workers or with the opportunity to become U.S. citizens.” According to Jan. 28 polling data, 51 percent think undocumented immigrants should be able to apply for citizenship.
A Fox News poll also conducted last month found that 66 percent of voters “think there should be a path to citizenship, but only if the individual meets requirements such as paying back taxes, learning English and passing a background check.” According to the poll, 56 percent of Republicans supported allowing undocumented immigrants to gain citizenship.
Both polls were taken on the heels of an announcement of a framework for immigration reform made by a bipartisan group of senators, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), followed by President Obama