Senate Immigration Bill Unpopular, Americans Skeptical

Pressure on House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to allow a vote on the recently passed Senate Immigration bill (Senate Bill 744) has been mounting from members of his own party, powerful corporate interests, and the mainstream press. 

Some of the chief authors of the Senate bill, such as Arizona Senator John McCain (R-AZ), have been the most vocal about the need for the House to take up the bill. On July 22, McCain, on Bloomberg TV's news program Political Capital with Al Hunt, forecasted "terrible consequences" for the Republican Party if it failed to act on comprehensive immigration reform. 

Prominent GOP spokesmen such as Grover Norquist and Karl Rove and business-friendly interest groups such as the Chamber of Commerce have also been championing the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013.  Major voices within the mainstream press have also largely backed the Senate's endeavor. The editorial boards of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Bloomberg View all endorsed Senate Bill 744 as a good start.    

Despite this considerable pressure from both conservative and liberal elites, Boehner has been right to stall on a measure that has not received majority support from the voting public. A Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted on July 18, 2013 found that only 46 percent of Americans favored the Senate Bill and 44 percent opposed it. Furthermore, skeptics appear to oppose the bill more passionately than advocates support it. Just nineteen percent of Americans polled stated that they "strongly" support the bill, while thirty percent "strongly" opposed it. 

The Washington Post-ABC News polls actually discovered that Americans more strongly favored individual components of the bill rather than the bill as a whole. Sixty-four percent of Americans stated that they favor the bill's border security provisions, with only 32 percent expressing disapproval of the border security components.

Support for the bill's border security proposals dropped, however, when respondents were reminded of the cost. Only fifty-three percent of respondents stated that they support the bill's border surge when reminded that the estimated costs of an additional 20,000 border agents and fencing will total $46 billion. 

The poll also indicated that a substantial majority of respondents would prefer Boehner's piecemeal approach to addressing immigration reform rather than the highly complex and pork-heavy initiative that the Senate approved on June 27. In fact, 53 percent of respondents stated that they support a piecemeal approach, while only 32 percent favored a comprehensive bill like the one the Senate produced. 

During this heavy news-cycle summer, respondents cannot be faulted for not being fully informed of all the costs and ramifications of Senate Bill 744, yet they are justified in being apprehensive of an immigration overhaul that is extremely expensive and will likely encourage more illegal immigration in the future. 

The most controversial component of the bill is its amnesty provisions. The bill offers steps for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who currently reside in America to become legal citizens through a gradual, thirteen-year process.  

Rather than mandating that border security be achieved before any type of amnesty is considered, the bill instead places nearly all applicants on the path to amnesty immediately. Like Ronald Reagan's 1986 Amnesty, such a move will only encourage greater illegal immigration in the future. With the economy in slow recovery and wages barely keeping up with inflation, Americans are right to be skeptical of any overhaul that carries such serious economic and political consequences.  

 


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