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Squeezing the numbers to justify inaction on immigration reform

April 17, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas


Photo by Capsicina


On Tuesday, the Rasmussen Reports released data from their latest national telephone survey on immigration, which states that voters don’t rank immigration as a priority issue. Bonnie Erbe, the host of PBS’ To The Contrary (who also happens to write from time to time for the Center for Immigration Studies, the anti-immigration advocacy organization founded as the research arm of FAIR ) wrote a blog entry on the US News & World Report commenting on the results of this survey. This is what she had to say:


Sixty-six percent (66%) of likely voters nationwide say it is Very Important for the government to improve its enforcement of the borders and reduce illegal immigration….


Seventy-four percent (74%) of U.S. voters continue to believe the federal government is not doing enough to secure the country's borders…


I agree with all of that.  This is why I try to make it clear in all of my communications that our approach (comprehensive immigration reform) is the better approach if you want security and want to eliminate unauthorized immigration.  It takes pressure off of the borders by allowing migrants to enter with a visa, not a smuggler (within reasonable limits tied to our economy), puts people through a vetting process, brings honest hard-working immigrant families forward for legalization and protection of rights while weeding out serious, violent criminals; it targets enforcement resources at bad-actor employers, smugglers, and bad guys and targets border security measures at real threats, which will actually make us more secure.


She goes on to say:


An even more dramatic gap appears on the question of legalizing the status of those immigrants now in the country illegally. Voters nationwide are evenly divided on the question of whether it is even somewhat important: 48% say it’s important, and 45% say it’s not.


So the greatest imaginable horror known to civilized man, legalization, or AMNESTY! is something a plurality (almost a majority) of voters think is important (given that most people in the poll don’t think immigration as an issue is important overall).  I’ve never seen such a low number supporting legalization, but it has a lot to do with how the question is asked.  “Amnesty” is not liked, legalization is liked a bit more, having people go through a process that includes fines and various forms of symbolic or real restitution is favored by very, very strong majorities.  In fact, “getting people into the system” is seen as the most effective method of enforcement by a lot of voters because they think immigrants don’t want to be legal and that it is some form of punishment.


Erbe leaves this part out from her polling analysis:


Fifty-four percent (54%) of voters say U.S. immigration policy should welcome all except those who are criminal or national security threats. Thirty percent (30%) disagree, and 17% are not sure.


I don’t think we can realistically expect to enact a policy that welcomes everyone who is not a criminal or national security threat without limits, but in the abstract, the American people want to.




Seventy-four percent (74%) of U.S. voters continue to believe the federal government is not doing enough to secure the country's borders, even as President-elect Obama has named a new secretary of Homeland Security who is opposed to a border fence.

Poll: Immigration Amnesty Is Unpopular Outside the Beltway, Pols Remain Clueless, April 16, 2009


Note, these are Rasmussen’s words (from a December poll), which imply 1) that voters think that a border fence is important to securing our borders (the border fence is a laugh line in any focus group I have ever seen; people think the Great Wall of Chihuahua is a joke and not a serious approach) and 2) that people have any opinion what-so-ever of Napolitano (Rasmussen says: “In a poll reported earlier this week, 30% of voters had a favorable opinion of Janet Napolitano. Forty-three percent (43%) didn’t know enough about the Arizona governor to have an opinion of her”).


As we like to say, “torture numbers and they’ll confess to anything.”  But in this case, Erbe – who is very well respected and thought of as a feminist, Democrat and ground-breaker in journalism – is torturing a slanted poll to come to some very weak conclusions.


If you see her, ask Bonnie how that “poll” last Election Day in November turned out and why so many anti-immigration Members of Congress were looking for jobs afterwards.



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