Analysis: Republicans who support immigration reform are on safe political ground
Republicans may not be of one mind when it comes to immigration reform, but support for reform has become the mainstream position among New Hampshire Republicans. That’s one of the takeaways from the New England College survey of New Hampshire voters released today.
The survey asked voters, “Do you support or oppose the current immigration reform bill in Congress that awards undocumented immigrants with a pathway to citizenship before a confirmed improvement in border security?”
That’s not exactly language designed to get a favorable response, yet 68 percent of all voters strongly or somewhat support the bill, with just 20 percent strongly or somewhat opposed. Republicans support the bill, 57-34; unaffiliated voters back it, 64-21; and Democrats said they agreed by an 81-7 margin.
Support for immigration reform has increased among Republicans in recent years. A June, 2011 UNH / Boston Globe survey that asked New Hampshire primary voters, “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?” 42% of likely Republican primary voters supported a path to legal status, as did 54% of undeclared voters and 72% of likely Democratic primary voters. See page 58: http://www.unh.edu/survey-center/news/pdf/primary2012_bg29.pdf
Republicans who support immigration reform are thus on safe political ground.
This is good news for U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte, who last month became the first Republican who was not a member of the Gang of Eight to support the bill. Ayotte ultimately was one of 14 Republicans senators who voted for it. Not only do independent and Democratic voters overwhelming agree with her vote, so does a strong majority of Republicans.
It’s also good news for Senator Marco Rubio, the most visible Republican member of the Gang of Eight. Rubio’s decision to get out front on this issue appears not to have been a politically calculated one. He could have easily taken a safe path by sidestepping immigration or leaving the heavy lifting to someone else. Instead, he rolled up his sleeves and worked hard to forge the compromises necessary to get a bill passed. The New England College poll suggests that Rubio’s leadership on this issue will be viewed as a net plus by New Hampshire Republicans.
Furthermore, opposing reform or defending the existing broken system is a losing political position. 2014 congressional candidates, take note.
Fergus Cullen, a former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, is a co-founder of Americans-By-Choice.org, a group that supports immigration reform that makes it easier for the world’s most talented and motivated people to live and work in America legally.