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Poll: Arizonans favor reformed pathways to citizenship for immigrants

A recent poll conducted by ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy shows Arizonans favor tighter border security and a reformed pathway to citizenship for undocumented Arizona residents.

The poll showed 78 percent of Arizonans surveyed favor a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants in Arizona, under the conditions that the alien has no criminal record in Arizona and their country of origin, pays a fine for illegally entering the U.S., gets a taxpayer I.D. number and demonstrates English proficiency.

These results came as a surprise to many, considering Arizona’s traditionally conservative views in regards to immigration laws.

David Daugherty, associate director of research at the Morrison Institute, said the specificity of the poll question produced these results.

“When you start to take immigration apart, people are still very concerned with border issues and when you just ask about immigration people just shake their head,” Daugherty said. “You need to address component parts of the border issue, the path to citizenship and undocumented immigrants.”

Despite these poll results, Arizona politicians are reluctant to tackle the task of granting citizenship to the millions of undocumented immigrants just yet.

Matt Benson, spokesman for Governor Jan Brewer, said he doesn’t want to see the same mistake by President Ronald Reagan happen again. In 1986, Reagan’s legislation made any immigrant who had entered the U.S. before 1982 eligible for amnesty as well as tighter security at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Arizonans remain opposed to illegal immigration,” Benson said. “Gov. Brewer stands with the vast majority of Arizonans who want to secure the border first.”

Poll director and senior research fellow at the Morrison Institute Bruce Merrill said, the lack of action on behalf of the government is due to the several facets of illegal immigration being viewed as a single problem.

“The issue of illegal immigration is much more complex than most people realize,” said Merrill in a statement released by the Morrison Institute. “People see the issues of border enforcement and what to do about undocumented immigrants who have been in the country for many years, many with children who are American citizens, as separate issues.”

The poll, which showed that 69 percent of surveyed Republicans and 89 percent of surveyed Democrats supported a reformed pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, indicates that illegal immigration may be a less dividing topic than previously assumed.

“There are certainly more Democrats than Republicans that supported (a reformed pathway to citizenship), but the majority of both groups supported it,” Daugherty said.  “I think there is some partisan element to it, but on this particular question it was much less pronounced.”

The poll seems to mirror a shifting political climate in Arizona as the results were released days after the recall election of Sen. Russell Pearce and the election of Greg Stanton as mayor of Phoenix.

The poll, which ran from Oct. 4 to 11, collected data from 600 telephone interviews of adult heads of households on several issues, including immigration reform, healthcare and education in the state of Arizona.

The Morrison Institute released these partial results on Nov. 9. Full results of the poll including issues such as sales taxes will be released at the State of Our State Conference on Nov. 30.


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