May 30, 2006


Nation splits 4 ways on illegals (Susan Page, 5/29/06, USA TODAY)

Americans hold strong and conflicting views about immigration that underscore the difficulties Congress will face in reaching a final legislative deal on the issue, an analysis of USA TODAY polling data shows.

The public splits into separate camps over whether illegal immigrants should be able to work toward citizenship, whether they help or hurt the economy — even whether immigration is an urgent problem that must be addressed.

Those disagreements are reflected in the Senate immigration bill that passed Thursday and the House bill, passed in December, which takes a tougher approach. A conference committee will try to resolve conflicts between the two measures on the issue, President Bush's top domestic priority before Congress.

A USA TODAY breakdown of public opinion, based on Gallup polls taken in April and May, finds Americans falling into four clusters that are roughly equal in size but vary dramatically in point of view. The groups can be characterized as "hard-liners," "unconcerned," "ambivalent" and "welcoming."

The hard-liners (USA Today, 5/29/2006)
25% of Americans, 60% male, 11% from immigrant families, 41% Bush approval rating.

The welcoming (USA Today, 5/29/2006)
27% of American, 59% female, 21% from immigrant families, 28% Bush approval rating. [...]

54% are Democrats. More than three of four are conservatives or moderates.

The unconcerned (USA Today, 5/29/2006)
23% of Americans, 50% male, 13% from immigrant families, 20% Bush approval rating.

Their outlook:

Not at all concerned about the issue. Generally sympathetic to illegal immigrants. Think their removal would hurt the economy.

The ambivalent (USA Today, 5/29/2006)
27% of Americans, 58% female, 15% from immigrant families, 33% Bush approval rating.

You can't win by playing to the hysteria of 25% of the population.

New immigration laws won't change laws of nature (Ruben Navarrette Jr., 5/30/06, Seattle Times)

I've been wondering how the father of the legislation felt about all this. So I dialed the sage of Cody, Wyo., former Sen. Alan Simpson.

Simpson isn't just the chief sponsor of the Simpson-Mazzoli Act, which morphed into IRCA. He is also a friend and was one of my graduate-school professors.

He's also delightfully quotable, like when he said that this debate is all about "emotion, fear, guilt and racism." Or when he said that a lot of the public concern over immigration starts when you "see people in the backyard who are roasting a pig and making a lot of noise and [you] don't understand what language they're talking." Or when he said to be wary of guest workers because "there's never been a temporary person in the United States, they all want to stay and they do." Or on his opposition to sending the National Guard to the border because "you're going to have a redneck in there every once in a while who is going to cause real pain." [...]

[O]n the big question — whether it was a mistake to grant amnesty to all those people — Simpson offers no apologies.

"I don't have any qualms about 3 million people from 93 countries coming forward," he said. "I like that. And I still see those people out in the street and it pleases me greatly."

So what do we do about the 11 million to 12 million here currently?

"You have to do something to give them a legal status," he said.

"They might have to put up five grand or two grand or 150 bucks but they've got to do something to come into one of the best countries on Earth."

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 30, 2006 7:02 AM

All signs are that the House will hold firm and the legislation will die in committee. The polls by the RNC and Matthew Dowd (who are generally considered accurate pollsters) showing strong levels of support for the immigration reform bill are being pooh poohed by NRO and others.

If the legislation is killed, and the polls are right, and the GOP gets hurt in November because they were too hard line while voters wanted some progress made, will NRO and others adjust their thinking? Probably not.

Posted by: AWW at May 30, 2006 7:59 AM

Mark Steyn sums it up.

This is not an "illegal immigration" issue. That's when one of the Slovaks or Botswanans gets tired of waiting in line for 12 years and comes in anyway, and lives and works here and doesn't pay any taxes, so the money he earns gets sluiced around the neighborhood supermarket and gas station and topless bar and the rest of the local economy, instead of being given to Trent and Arlen and Co. to toss into the great sucking maw of the federal budget.

But a "worker class" drawn overwhelmingly from a neighboring jurisdiction with another language and ancient claims on your territory and whose people now send so much money back home in the form of "remittances" that it's Mexico's largest source of foreign income (bigger than oil or tourism) is not "immigration" at all, but a vast experiment in societal transformation. Indeed, given the international track record of bilingual societies and neighboring jurisdictions with territorial claims, it's not much of an experiment so much as a safe bet on political instability.

Posted by: Gideon at May 30, 2006 8:05 AM


Won't matter. The new Congress will give the President the amnesty bill he wants.

Posted by: oj at May 30, 2006 8:14 AM


Societal transformation is our forte--there'll be no Mexico when we're done.

Posted by: oj at May 30, 2006 8:15 AM

OJ - they'll be too busy with impeachment hearings to take up an immigration reform bill.

Posted by: AWW at May 30, 2006 8:20 AM

Impeachment? It's much more likely that Allah will smite the breast of the evil Bushitler with a bolt of lightening.

Posted by: erp at May 30, 2006 9:32 AM

OJ: What if your grand experiment blows up in all of our faces?

Posted by: tps at May 30, 2006 9:58 AM

How can one be against people who roast pigs and make a lot of noise in the backyard? They had me at "pig".

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at May 30, 2006 10:20 AM


Then America was just another in a long line of failed experiments.

Posted by: oj at May 30, 2006 10:37 AM

TPS, I'm trying to think of historical examples, and all the ones I can think of failed because of native racists. Could you give me any other examples?

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 30, 2006 11:24 AM

I try not to get into the nativist/racist angle to the immigration debate. But when NRO and others are saying that one of the main reasons that the Senate bill is bad is because it increases legal immigration levels (which are low for a country of 300MM) you have to wonder.

Posted by: AWW at May 30, 2006 11:26 AM

No, you don't.

Posted by: oj at May 30, 2006 11:29 AM

Because Simpson didn't do his job properly the 1st time around is 1 reason we're here today.

Why didn't he tackle increased legal immigration 20 years ago?

Posted by: Sandy P at May 30, 2006 11:33 AM


That wasn't the job, nor is it this time.

Posted by: oj at May 30, 2006 11:45 AM

NRO is sort of moving on, except for former illegal immigrant and self-identified racist Derbyshire, of course. Writers are getting back to their usual beats: K-Lo on abortion, Jonah on pop culture, Graham on media bias, Ledeen on Iran...

...and Miller on conservative rock 'n' roll songs!!?? Believe it or not, his lists are great, the best things on the site in ages. Even Pete Townsend checked in with a response.

Pretty soon Orrin will be saying all rock 'n' roll is conservative, along with all humor.

Posted by: Casey Abell at May 30, 2006 2:02 PM

All great rock is--there were almost no great tunes on his list:

Posted by: oj at May 30, 2006 2:07 PM

Casey - NRO is probably saving its energy to see what comes out of the committee (if anything).

As I noted above it is interesting watching the blogs rip apart Dowd and his polls when up until this point he was considered a good pollster.

Posted by: AWW at May 30, 2006 2:28 PM

The most significant thing about the polling data laid out in the US Today article concerns the intensity with which the competing viewpoints are held.

Those wishing that the government take care that its laws be upheld hold their position most strongly. Those who don't much care one way or the other, not surprisingly, don't much care one way or the other.

Gee, I wonder how such a debate might shake out. Just possibly, the strong concern of those protective of America'a borders might mirror the strong concern of those who support Israel's survival or the deeply held commitment of those who value the right to keep and bear arms.

We see again and again how a Second Amendment activist striving to protect a heritage for his children outweighs any number of casual anti-gunners who read an article about it once and answer the poll by checking a box next to "Need more gun laws."

Get a grip here. This is not about calling each other names, as in, "He's a RACIST--he doesn't like MEXICANS!" This is about calm reflection upon political reality. We are going to split our base over this and we could end up handing over our country to the gun-grabbing baby-killers and, ultimately, the world to the enemies of our civilization.

Personally, I would be glad to welcome any number of well disposed Hispanic immigrants. That is not the issue. Right now illegal immigration is being handled as a cynical, dishonest sham. Fraud and deceit permeate the system. It's wrong, and it will have to be paid for.

Posted by: Lou Gots at May 30, 2006 4:59 PM

No, it's just racism. A great party oughtn't truckle to extremists at the expense of twelve million fellow Americans.

Posted by: oj at May 30, 2006 5:03 PM

Mr. Gots, it's only illegal immigration because the INS is so corrupt and incompetent. Giving them more power will only add to the sham. The bureacracy will not be reformed until we get rid of the civil service. Until then, you have a choice between bribe taking incompetent INS agents and hard working people who are "illegal" because they could not or would not pay the bribes. Why are you siding with the INS?

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 30, 2006 6:13 PM

Leonard Cohen? Barf.

Posted by: Casey Abell at May 31, 2006 8:10 AM