Likely voters in the early presidential battleground state of Iowa are sharply divided along party lines when it comes to U.S. immigration reform. Just 34 percent of Republicans said the U.S. should give immigrants in the U.S. illegally a path to citizenship, while 83 percent of Democrats said undocumented immigrants should be allowed to apply for permanent residency, a Quinnipiac University poll released Monday indicated.
Peter A. Brown, the poll’s assistant director, described the partisan divide as “striking” in a statement. “Ideas that are part of Democratic orthodoxy are an anathema to Republicans, and vice versa,” Brown said. “Democrats think illegal immigrants should be able to stay in the United States and eventually become citizens. Republicans don’t.” The poll also found 46 percent of Republicans said undocumented immigrants should be forced to leave the U.S., compared to 8 percent of Democrats.
Brown added voters in Iowa, which will play host to the country’s first presidential caucuses in February, often regarded as an indicator of how voters might lean in national elections, are “a perfect example of just how differently Democrats and Republicans see completely different worlds.”
The issue of immigration reform has taken center stage in national debates for decades; however, it was President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration last year that sparked fresh discussions. The president announced several changes to U.S. immigration policy in November 2014, including expanding the number of children eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and offering temporary legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants. The changes also sought to shield millions of immigrants from deportation.
The president’s actions, not to mention the controversy over immigrant detention centers, have been used as ammo by some 2016 presidential contenders to take shots at Obama and other Democrats. Republican Donald Trump drew the ire of many in recent weeks, including those in his own party, with his comments on Mexican immigrants. Trump, who announced his bid for the presidency in June, said Mexico was “sending” people across the border with “lots of problems” and claimed Latin American immigrants were “rapists.”
Many prominent Republicans tried to distance themselves from Trump and his statements, saying he didn’t represent the party’s position on immigration.