Education Leaders Speak Out to Defend Undocumented Students

Amidst all the talk from immigration hardliners, including the incoming president, of ending President Obama’s wildly successful program to protect undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, America’s college and university leaders are speaking out to defend their students. Hundreds of education leaders across the country have signed on to a “Statement in Support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program and our Undocumented Immigrant Students.”

The statement, organized by Pomona College in California, includes all of the nation’s Ivy League Universities as well as the nation’s largest four-year public university system, the California State Universities. The statement reads in part, “…DACA should be upheld, continued, and expanded. … This is both a moral imperative and a national necessity. America needs talent — and these students … are already part of our national community. They represent what is best about America, and as scholars and leaders they are essential to the future.”

President-elect Trump has favored a hard-line message on immigration, but the public does not support deporting these young people, who are American in all but their papers.

Read more about the effort of colleges and universities to protect undocumented students on my post on Immigration Impact.

Photo credit: Alejandro Mallea

Trump “Softening” on Immigration? This Might Explain Why

Chart - percent favoring allow to stay

On August 25, the Pew Research Center released a new national poll on American attitudes towards undocumented immigrants. Taking a look at the results, it is not hard to understand Donald Trump’s apparent “softening” on immigration during the same week.

Despite his efforts to paint undocumented immigrants in dark terms, the public overall does not buy Trump’s rhetoric. According to Pew, three-quarters (76 percent) of the public says that undocumented immigrants are as hard-working or as honest as U.S. citizens. Two-thirds (67 percent) say that undocumented immigrants are no more likely than U.S. citizens to commit serious crimes. The wall isn’t all that popular either: 61 percent of the public opposes it.

Pew asked respondents what they thought the priority should be in the government’s handling of illegal immigration. A plurality, 45 percent, said that the government should focus on both “better border security and stronger enforcement” and “creating a way for immigrants already here illegally to become citizens if they meet certain requirements.” An additional 29 percent said that the latter—allowing undocumented immigrants to stay and become citizens—should be the priority. In total, then, 74 percent of the public in this survey favors giving undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship if conditions are met.

This is consistent with polls taken over the course of the past year. Mr. Trump has been (until a week ago) unrelenting in his efforts to tar all undocumented immigrants with the crimes of a few. It hasn’t had much effect on public attitudes, which have stayed in a range of 55 percent to 84 percent in favor of allowing undocumented immigrants to stay.

Someone in Trump’s camp must occasionally look at polls, and someone perhaps told him that the public doesn’t buy his line on immigrants. So why continue to press it? A softer stance, though, upsets his base. We’ve watched his position ping pong back and forth, “soft” and “hard,” until he indeed accomplished one campaign promise: he’s made our heads spin.

More detail on public attitudes on a path to citizenship for the undocumented, as measured in polls over the past year, can be found in this paper I wrote for the National Immigration Forum

Trump Helps Shape Latino View of Republican Party

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Last month, I wrote about how Donald Trump has polled among Latinos over the past year. His pronouncements on immigration and Mexican immigrants have made him very unpopular with Latinos. While Trump almost seems to relish turning people against him, his Latino problem goes beyond damage to his campaign—it is affecting the way Latinos view the Republican Party. Trump is not exactly an ambassador for the party. In this post, I’ll look back over the past year’s worth of polling of Latinos in the U.S., and focus on attitudes towards the GOP.

The first poll of Latino voters that was released after Trump’s campaign launch was conducted by Univision Notices and was partially conducted prior to Trump’s speech. The majority of respondents (52%) questioned prior to Trump’s campaign launch already had an unfavorable view of the Republican Party. However, the party’s unfavorable rating ticked up after Trump made his announcement—to 56 percent. In this survey, 92 percent of respondents said they thought the immigration issue was “very” (72 percent) or “somewhat” (20 percent) important in considering their vote. A majority (52 percent) said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who opposed legalizing undocumented immigrants.

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Donald Trump’s Latino Problem

It was a bit over a year ago that Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the presidency with his now famous tirade against Mexican immigrants. Out of the gate, Trump alienated a rapidly-growing constituency—Latinos. In the first public opinion survey of Latino voters after Trump’s entry into the race, conducted by Univision Noticias in June and July of last year, 71 percent of respondents said their view of Trump was unfavorable. In a matchup with Hillary Clinton, just 16 percent of Latinos said they would vote for Trump.

So, what’s happened in the year during which Trump has gone from being a candidate to being the presumptive nominee?

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Another survey in July of 2015 of Latino adults, conducted by The Washington Post-ABC News, showed that 81 percent of Latinos viewed trump unfavorably. 64 percent of respondents in this poll had strongly unfavorable views of Trump.

In September, NBC News and the Wall Street Journal conducted a national poll with an oversample of Latinos, and 72 percent of those Latinos said they had negative feelings towards Trump, with 65 percent having strongly negative feelings. This poll showed an uptick in support for Trump in a matchup with Clinton—a whopping 17 percent said they would vote for Trump.

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Update: Pew Adds to Mountain of Data Showing Support for Immigration Reform

Just two days after this post with a summary of recent public opinion surveys on immigration, the Pew Research Center, on June 4, released their yet another poll, and it is very consistent with others going back months and years. 

In the Pew survey, nearly three in four Americans (72%) agreed that “there should be a way for [undocumented immigrants] to stay in the country legally, if certain requirements are met.” Democrats, Independents and Republicans all favored allowing undocumented immigrants to remain in the country legally (80%, 76% and 56%, respectively). Like a number of other surveys, this survey finds that young people are among the greatest supporters of the path to legal status—81% of those younger than 30.

Only 36 percent of respondents to the Pew survey felt that giving undocumented immigrants a path to legal status “is like rewarding them for doing something wrong.” Among Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents in this survey, only 34% said that Republicans were doing a good job representing their views on the immigration issue.

Bottom line: the public is far ahead of Congress when it comes to support for immigration reform with a path to citizenship.

Republican Primary Messages Contradict Public Support for a Path to Citizenship

The first half of 2015 is nearly over. So far this year, the immigration debate has been dominated by President Obama’s executive action on immigration and Republican efforts to stop it. Republican state leaders have been successful in using the courts to temporarily halt the president’s action. Congress has drafted legislation to overturn the President’s actions. Presidential races are underway, and many candidates for the Republican nomination have vowed to end the President’s order.

Between last year and this, the focus of the immigration debate has changed. Last year, it was legislation moving through Congress that would have offered long-resident undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship, provided they could meet certain conditions. Conservative Republicans were successful at killing reform.

This year, with Congress seeming incapable of reforming the immigration laws, the President has acted to protect, at least temporarily, some of the same long-resident undocumented immigrants who would have benefited from the legislation. Again, conservative Republicans are trying to stop relief for these aspiring Americans.

It’s time to take another look at how the public feels about all this. By looking at several public opinion polls since the beginning of the year, it is clear that the public’s attitude has changed very little from last year to this. There is majority support for allowing undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S. legally.

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Action/Reaction: Public Support, Republican Opposition to Executive Action

The least productive Congress in modern history will leave Washington this week for the holidays. After running the clock out on this Congress without action on immigration reform, Republicans have been predictably furious at President Obama for taking action to mitigate the hardships caused by their lack of action.

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Despite Cantor Loss, Reform Still Alive in Congress

It has been nearly a year since the Senate passed a sweeping immigration overhaul on June 27. The House has yet to act. The cause of the delay continues to be the internal divisions within the Republican Conference, with a sizable numbers of the conference opposed to reform.  Many members of Congress are now waiting to see how the primary season will turn out. Will members who have voiced support for immigration reform retain their positions?

Republican primary elections have yet to offer clarity on support for reform

On June 10, the small-tent faction of the Republican party, or the “tea party,” celebrated victory in Virginia’s 7th Congressional district, where a poorly-funded tea party challenger beat the Republican Party’s second-highest-ranking member in the House, Eric Cantor. Cantor was seen as a supporter of reform, although he played both sides of the issue during his campaign. Still, his opponent attacked Cantor’s support for “amnesty,” and Cantor’s loss has given the press more reason to declare immigration reform officially dead.

On the other hand, other primaries have yielded the opposite results for candidates who have been supporters of reform. On the same day that Cantor lost, one of the leaders in pushing reform legislation through the Senate, Lindsey Graham, very comfortably won his primary in South Carolina. Graham received 57 percent of the vote, far ahead of the 15 percent received by the second-place finisher in a field of six challengers.

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House Republicans Get Ready to Move on Immigration Reform

At a retreat of the Republican Conference at the end of January, Republican leaders released a set of “standards” for immigration reform. The standards acknowledge that the immigration system must be fixed, and Republicans will devise solutions through a “step-by-step” process. Their vision includes putting border security and interior enforcement first, implementing an entry-exit visa tracking system, a universal electronic employment verification system, reforms to the legal immigration system that include more visas for skilled workers and a workable temporary worker program, and some process for allowing the undocumented to live in the country legally (including legal residency and citizenship for young people brought to the country as children).

The standards leave much to interpretation. For example, regarding border security, the standards say, “[w]e must secure our borders now and verify that they are secure.”  What does that verification look like? The standards say “[t]here will be no special path to citizenship for individuals who broke our nation’s immigration laws….” Does this preclude citizenship for the undocumented?

All of this will become concrete once legislation is drafted in the coming months. For the most part, advocates are cautiously optimistic—encouraged that Republican leaders are acknowledging the need for reform, but needing to see how these standards are interpreted in legislation.

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