Last night, I spent almost half an hour filling out the 2009 American Community Survey, part of the 2010 census. As my wife and I filled it out, I wondered what the census would show this year. Many predict that Minnesota will lose a seat in the House, that some serious redistricting will go on, and that the answers from the census will be analyzed and implemented in everything from political campaigns to television commercials.
Although the American public won’t get the results from the 2010 census for a while now, and when it does immigrants and minorities will still probably be underrepresented, this past week saw some encouraging polls released from the New York Times, CBS, ABC, and the Washington Post, just in time for the initiation of immigration reform discussion before the Senate Immigration Subcommittee on Thursday, April 30. (Belanger, Maurice). The New York Times and CBS polls asked:
Which comes closest to your view about illegal immigrants who are currently working in the U.S.: 1. They should be allowed to stay in their jobs, and to eventually apply for U.S. citizenship; OR 2. They should be allowed to stay in their jobs only as temporary guest workers, but NOT to apply for U.S. citizenship; OR 3. They should be required to leave their jobs and leave the U.S. [NYTimes]
44% said they favored allowing immigrants to stay and eventually apply for citizenship, while 21% said they should be allowed to stay in their jobs as temporary guest workers. Refreshingly contrary to national pundits who typically pit African Americans against recent immigrants, 55% of African Americans favored allowing undocumented workers to stay and work, with only 19% stating they should be required to leave their jobs and the U.S. (Belanger, Maurice)
The Washington Post/ABC poll released on Thursday was similarly encouraging news. The survey asked,
Would you support or oppose a program giving ILLEGAL immigrants now living in the United States the right to live here LEGALLY if they pay a fine and meet other requirements? [ABC]
61% said they favored allowing undocumented immigrants to continue to live here and have a viable path to citizenship. Liberals supported this (70%), Democrats supported it (68%), Republicans and Independents supported it (59%), and moderates (63%) and conservatives supported it (56%). (Belanger, Maurice) Despite the repeated statements from nativists that this is a partisan issue and that humane immigration reform is contrary to rule of law in the United States, the poll speaks loudly that the majority of Americans are in favor of treating these new Americans humanely and reasonably.
With 73% of Americans under 30 supporting such legislation (compared to 42% of seniors), this comprehensive immigration reform seems to be the mandate of the future. As the Senate debates the finer points of specific immigration bills, it is highly encouraging to know that the American people have not caved in to nativist and xenophobic fears during this time of economic depression, but instead have chosen to recognize that as Dr. King said, we are all “inextricably linked in the garment of destiny.”