If U.S. lawmakers were looking for the American public to tell them which of the two main issues surrounding comprehensive immigration reform they should tackle first -- border security or the 11 million undocumented immigrants -- they wouldn’t know which direction to take.
That’s because Americans place equal importance on the two areas of concern, according to a new Gallup poll. A survey of 1,023 people between Feb. 6 and Feb. 9 found that 44 percent believe it’s important to sort out the legal status for those who are in the country without papers, while 43 percent believe greater emphasis should be placed on keeping illegal immigrants out. This specifically poses a problem for the House Republicans’ piecemeal approach to reform; in past years, border security was a priority among citizens.
More Americans have been warming up to the idea that an overhaul of the broken system must include a solution for bringing the undocumented population out of the shadows. Numerous polls have shown a high favorability for a path to citizenship or some sort of legal status for the undocumented.
The partisan bickering in Congress over the issue is representative of what’s happening at the public level. Just like in the House of Representatives, more Republicans than Democrats among the public put a greater emphasis on border security, 55 percent vs. 42 percent, according to Gallup. On the other hand, 59 percent of Democrats believe the focus should be on finding a solution to the immigrants’ illegal status.
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The bickering and uncertainty of how to move forward among lawmakers have caused proposed comprehensive legislation to stall in Congress. The House Republican leadership said it will be taking a piecemeal approach to reform and has since released its principles for immigration reform. Those principles contain the option of legal status for immigrants without legal papers. However, the GOP has since refused to move forward beyond principles because of what it says is distrust for President Barack Obama.