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Parsing the Polls: Explaining the Immigration Contradiction

President Bush spent the first two days of this week previewing his plans to address illegal immigration in the new year, and a handful of potential Republican presidential candidates are making it a centerpiece of their issue agendas.

So why are GOP leaders talking up immigration controls? A quick look at recent survey data shows that people rank illegal immigration as a second- or even third-tier priority -- well below more high-profile issues like the war in Iraq or terrorism.

In the Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted in early November, 68 percent of people said the country was on the "wrong track," but just 1 percent of said "illegal immigrants" were to blame.  By contrast, 30 percent identified the economy as the main reason for their pessimism and 21 percent cited Iraq.

A NBC/Wall Street survey in the field last month found that just 7 percent of voters said illegal immigration should be the top priority of the federal government.  A total of just 16 percent said it should be the first or second most important issue for President Bush and Congress to address. That figure was dwarfed by the war in Iraq (21 percent first priority/40 percent total) and "job creation/economic growth" (20 percent first priority/37 percent total).

So, by and large, voters nationwide do not see illegal immigration as a pressing priority for the government. But when asked specific questions about the issue, solid majorities voice strong opinions about border security and immigration issues in general.

Asked by Fox News/Opinion Dynamics whether "the federal government is doing enough to secure the country's borders," 78 percent said "no" compared to just 16 percent saying "yes." In that same October poll, a bare majority (51 percent) favored "a proposal to build a 2,000 mile long security fence along the U.S.-Mexico border to stop illegal immigration."  Thirty-seven percent opposed such a plan, with 12 percent unsure of their opinion.

An October CBS News poll found similar results. Seventy-five percent of people said the United States was "not doing enough along its borders to keep illegal immigrants from crossing into this country."  Fifteen percent said the government was "doing enough" and four percent said it was "doing too much."

Neil Newhouse, a partner in the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, offered an explanation for the seeming contradiction, drawing a comparison between immigration and abortion and welfare reform -- two issues that rarely rank as top priorities for voters but "evoked (and still evoke) strong opinions among voters."  That passion "makes them 'voting issues,' regardless of whether they rank highly in the 'top of mind' issue question," Newhouse said.

Do you agree? We'd love to hear your own theories about the somewhat divergent poll results on immigration. Either post in the comments section or e-mail me.

Bonus Poll: Here's a polling tidbit about the Rhode Island Democratic Senate primary between former state Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse and Secretary of State Matt Brown. A poll conducted for Whitehouse's campaign by Anzalone-Liszt Research shows Whitehouse with a comfortable 51 percent to 27 percent edge. Whitehouse's name is recognized by 86 percent of those tested compared to 70 percent who recognized Brown. The poll, which will be released today, was in the field from Nov. 16-22, testing 600 likely Democratic primary voters with a four percent margin of error.

UPDATE, 5:45 P.M. ET: It's still Wednesday, so we thought a little bit more polling data couldn't hurt.  The Club For Growth released a survey this afternoon that seems to show that ads funded by the National Republican Senatorial Committee that attack Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey (R) have had little impact on the his primary challenge to Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R).

Sixty-one percent of those polled by National Research Inc. said they had seen one of the NRSC's ads; of that group, 34 percent said the commercials made them more likely to vote for Laffey in the GOP primary compared to 25 percent who said it made them less likely to support Laffey. Thirty-nine percent said the ads had no effect on their vote.

Brian Nick, a spokesman for the NRSC, dismissed the poll results. "Our internal information tells us that the ads in Rhode Island have been extremely effective, and even more promising is the fact that Senator Chafee's popularity remains extremely high throughout the state," he said. NRSC Chairwoman Elizabeth Dole (N.C.) and Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri (R) will host a fundraiser for Chafee in Providence tonight, Nick added.

The Club For Growth has not yet endorsed Laffey in his primary challenge to the moderate Chafee, but this poll seems to be a strong indication they are leaning toward offering public support. 

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 30, 2005; 9:44 AM ET
Categories:  Parsing the Polls  
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Next: Keeping Tabs on the Consultants



There is an illegal immigration problem, it does depress wages, and it does take away jobs from some people.

You want to solve the illegal immigration problem then you insist that the other countries enforce the same standards as Americans have to adhere to or you don't do business with them....require American companies to adhere to the same standards in other countries that apply to them here and outsourcing will look a lot less attractive to them.

Charge tarrifs on products that are made in other countries for US companies as well as enforce the same laws overseas that apply here. The economic osmotic barrier needs to be maintained so we don't bleed to death. Raise _their_ standards of living without depressing it for US citizens. The Japanese have protected their way of life for years while being knee deep in countries that could buy them if they wanted to....maybe they're smarter than us or perhaps they just have leaders that know how to actually think about the locals.

I don't care about the color or ethnicity of anyone....however, I don't want to create third world conditions for myself or others because I'm too stupid to call my leaders on their short term outlook which helps their bottom line while eroding the quality of life that I have.

and guess what you shouldn't either, even illegal aliens will agree with that in 20 years after they get citizenship.........

The other thing to note is that if there are no examples of a better way to live, how will anyone know, why lower our selves to third world standards in employment and compensation? Why not give Juan a fair wage, and let him compete with others for the job? Adopting third world policies towards American citizens does not create equality in the just lowers the standards. Do you want to live like a Kashmiri or have their life made better....

Katrina is an example of the way things have changed in the last 50 years. Our leaders honestly don't care about the people in New Orleans isn't their color it's that their not anyone that they know. I mean you've seen Bush holding Royal Saudii hands. He's not only not homophobic, he's not predjudiced. He's all for the rich influential brother, which you're not and I'm not either. But hey you can vote, and so will they in a few years as they acquire citizenship since they're buying property and acquiring land here. Welcome to 1984, only Big Brother is the affluent in charge of your electoral system.

Posted by: Hmmm someone is better at screaming than thinking, but then they won't understand this so | December 12, 2005 8:30 PM | Report abuse

ATTN: Sandwich,

I would have PERSONALY stuffed you in a cattle car headed east!!!!

Ralph L.

Posted by: Ralph L | December 3, 2005 9:15 PM | Report abuse

What does a headline like this tell you:
"DeLay's Reign May End"?
Basically what's goung on in Dubya's Washington is that a band of criminals gone loose in the place where law's supposed to be reigning. Sad, it happens once in awhile, here or in Mao's China, or in Hitler's Germany, or in Pol Pot's Cambodia.

Posted by: F. Socrates | December 3, 2005 9:08 PM | Report abuse

Ah, so you think we should have allied with Hitler's Germany and spread the Holocaust. Now we see your true colours. I think you should seek a mental health professional--if you can afford it in your state which ranks 50th in proportion of people with health insurance.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | December 3, 2005 12:34 AM | Report abuse

Dear Sandwich Person,

If you are such a loyal American why are you so quick to defend Canada?
As far as my nose goes, it spends most of it's time smelling out bullshit like what is coming from north of the border.
1. In case you forgot, during the Vietnam
war a slew of draft dodgers and deserters
went to Canada and were welcomed with open arms. Now the deserters from Iraq are going there also. Has Canada returned any?
2. Did Canada support the U.S. this time in Iraq? In the U.N.? Anywhere since WWII?
As far as I'm concerned we might have been on the wrong side in that war! We and the Germans would have cleaned the worlds clock! And, we wouldn't be hated any more OR less for it.
3. Your splendid Canada has tried to strip the right of gun ownership from all it's people. It was such a great success in England and Australia - their crime rates
have gone through the roof.
4. Your medicine I suppose is fine if you have a head cold. I had a heart attack and was dead at age 47. AMERICAN doctors, nurses and AMERICAN medicine saved my life.

I guess all that time you spent in Washington twisted your mind. Something happens to people once they get inside the beltway. Usually the first thing to go is

Have a great liberal weekend,


Posted by: Ralph L. | December 2, 2005 10:13 PM | Report abuse

Hey Ralph: because I'm an American! (Third generation on one side, fifth on the other) I was born in Indiana. I've lived all but 3 months of my 29 years in the US. I vote in US elections--haven't missed a single one since turning 18. I worked in the US Senate for over 3 years. If you didn't have your own nose stuck up your ass, you might know that the Canadian government is hardly coddling US deserters, and could hardly be characterized as leftist by anyone who isn't a lunatic.

You might like Canada if you actually visited it. Taxes are lower here, crime is much lower, everyone has health insurance, unemployment is at a 31-year low, the government has run 8 budget surpluses in a row (which are being used to pay down the national debt), and we're no one's terrorist target. Not a shabby state of events.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | December 2, 2005 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Hey "Sandwich Repairman"

Why don't you keep your nose in Canada where it belongs! I would think you wold have enough to keep you busy coddeling our deserters. And one more thing, when your leftist government starts voting WITH the
U.S. in the UN, then perhaps you will get someone to listen to your CRAP down here!

Posted by: Ralph L | December 1, 2005 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Hey, DB. I'll mow your lawns -- if you pay me more than $10/hour.

Posted by: Tony | December 1, 2005 11:55 AM | Report abuse

This is the worst blog of venom I have ever read. It is not worthy of a response to so many of the bloggers above.

There are so many things wrong with most of the posts above. Does anyone actually have the facts together. For one, are all 'brown" people illegal aliens. Try that in South Florida where a large Cuban and Puerto Rican population are here LEGALLY. So tell me exactly how Florida knows who is illegal or not. Puerto Ricans have the constitutional rights to move freely to the US and have rights as a US citizens. The bigots of the world dont even understand who is legal or not. Yes many of these LEGAL "Brown" folks are having babies and etc. They are hurting the American health network..but so are unemployed blacks and impoverished whites. There is no difference. Except, I dont see to many 'Brown" people collecting unemployment checks, socal security, medicaid, workers compensation, and or stand in line at soup kitchens.

Personally, I would export every lazy arse person who dont work vs worrying about illegal immigration. Name the last Hispanic terrorist? The whole thing about terrorist gaining illegal entry is such a farce.

As for the person who states that illegal immigrants are causing wages to be depressed, get a real. The wages are depressed because we as AMericans no longer make anything of substance, WE import most of our consumable goods. Those jobs were exported. What we have left are low-paying service jobs that many Ameericans will not take. Let me give you a personal example.

I own a landscape company. I use a guest worker program called H2B, and bring hispanic workers to fill these jobs. BEFORE I can bring one person to this country legally, I first must apply for permission. Then I must run newspaper ads for 7 days. I must track and report all responses to these ads. The ads say landscape laborers needed. I ran those ads in early November of this year in the Washington Post, Washington Times, and the Baltimore Sun. I recieved exactly zero responses from these ads. I have been doing this for the past five years and during that time I have had a total of 3 responses. The pay is $10.00 per hour, well above Walmart, McDonalds, and many other service jobs.

After receiving permission to bring guest workers here, I must identify the names of those individuals I wish to bring. They are subjected to a background check both by the Mexican and US government. IF they have even have an outstanding parking ticket they are not allowed to come and work. PLUS, if they have been here previously, they must show their SS card and their employers W-2 and where they filed US taxes. I am obligated to make sure all taxes are withheld and paid by each of these workers. New to the country workers have to obtain their SS card within three weeks of arriving and before I pay them one dime. Absolutely every thing about this process is legal, above board, and is necessary for my business.

AND by ghe way, each of these guest workers are returned to their native country as I pay their way back to make sure they do not remain here illegally. And while they are here, I am obligated to make sure they have adequate housing and I pay for any medical emergencies and pay workers comp for each of them based upon wages paid.

So, let me put this back to all of you. The only problem with the the program I mentioned above is the US government only allows 60,000 guest workers annually. So In short, We already have a solution to the illegal immigration problem, it simply needs to be expanded. Used properly and enforced. Companies that dont abide should not be allowed to participate and should be shut down and fined.

So on a personal basis, I find most of the drivel by bloggers above written by ignorant and uninformed persons who are basing their opinion not on facts but biased "anti-hispanic" prejudices.

Posted by: DB | December 1, 2005 12:34 AM | Report abuse

To those who hold up foreign terrorists as arguments against citizenship by birth:

Do you also think Timothy McVeigh should not have been granted US citizenship by virtue of his birth in the US? How did his being a citizen help enable him to kill 168 people in the Murrah building?

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | December 1, 2005 12:32 AM | Report abuse

Why do all the xenophobes here blame illegal immigrants for making huge sacrifices to live a better life, while failing to call for an ounce of accountability of the employers who WANT to hire illegal labourers because they are so cheap? How is this the immigrants' fault and not their employers'? Should we shut down all the businesses that employ illegal workers and force THEM to move to Asia and Central and South America? Blame NAFTA, or capitalism, or destitution in developing countries if you want; but these attacks on immigrants are based on nothing but racism.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | December 1, 2005 12:27 AM | Report abuse

Immigrants are not sucking our social services or tax dollars, are not driving up the cost of health care (the main culprit is skyrocketing prescription drug costs), and their children are no less deserving of citizenship than ours. Do you think American born children should have no citizenship in any country, and should have to pass a US citizenship test to get it? Do you realize how many natural-born American citizens already can't pass that test? And the US has NO official language, nor should it. Why the hell should you care, or is it any of your business, if someone else can't speak the same language as you? I live in Montreal where I'm in the minority of people who don't speak French. Should I also be faced with walls, machine guns, and be forcibly removed back to the US before I even have a chance to learn Quebecois French?

What hateful, irrational claptrap!

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | December 1, 2005 12:16 AM | Report abuse

TO: Larry

What do anti-personnel mines have to do with globalization? Unless you want to use
Chinese mines!

Posted by: Ralph | November 30, 2005 9:07 PM | Report abuse

Ralph -

You just forgot to mention that you are the descendent of an immigrant to this country where the ORIGINAL inhabitants were decimated.

Imagine the natives had denied entrance to your folks.

Mining the southern border? Ever heard of globalization??

Posted by: Larry | November 30, 2005 8:05 PM | Report abuse

I am a proud Euro-American who is sick and tired of seeing this country being over-run by the brown ignorant masses from south of the border.
You want predjudice, well I am one of the worst! This country was made great by WHITE
people, defended by MOSTLY WHITE PEOPLE, and WHITE people are footing the bills, and paying the price for runaway illegal immigration.
Stop ALL immigration for one year. During that year MINE our southern border. If some
law-breaker trips a mine, LEAVE THEM OUT THERE! The illegal problem would be solved in two weeks or less.
Then start LEGAL immigration of WHITE people that have a skill, and CAN PAY THEIR OWN WAY!
Don't like what I say? TOUGH. You bleeding hearts are pissing away the country I spent

Far Rightly yours,

Ralph L.
P.O. Box 2418
Galveston, Tx. 77553

Posted by: Ralph | November 30, 2005 5:22 PM | Report abuse

just make every body legal problem solved............

Posted by: fred pa | November 30, 2005 5:15 PM | Report abuse

The greatest political irony of our time: left-wingers and neocons are warring siblings. Or is it the party of "keep your hands off my bank account" opposes "keep your hands off my body"? Or is it the Party of Lincoln only gets 10% of the black vote? Or is it people who will viciously defend convicted killers viciously defend the right to abortions?

Everyone's all mixed up, I think.

I'm with you on the laws against illegal immigration, I've never claimed otherwise. I disagree with denying citizenship to their children.

Will I betray myself as a liberal if I say my concept of an idea of national purpose makes me uneasy? It's certainly playing with fire, but we'd never have succulant flame-kissed steaks if we didn't risk the burns.

I'm out for a time, been good discussing.

Posted by: How Bad? | November 30, 2005 4:30 PM | Report abuse

"it also describes a purpose that Americans have had from the beginning to be a nation of ideals of liberty and opportunity, guided by laws, not merely of them."

Including laws against illegal immigration? ;-)

I'm not so sure about the idea of a national purpose. Sounds very neo-conservative to me. One has to constantly remember that Emma Lazarus was a poet, not an elected representative of the people.

Posted by: TruthHurts | November 30, 2005 4:04 PM | Report abuse

It was one. Even darker than your example of Washington, Benjamin Franklin talked about a dream of seeing the glorious white race spread to the Pacific. When James Winthrop paraphrased the Gospels about creating a City on the Hill for all mankind to follow, it was certainly not an inclusive image considering he and his fellows had left England in discuss at the tolerance (he might say permissiveness) afforded there.

But the other is expressed by Lincoln, clearly inspired by the words of Jefferson in the document that declared the cited independence from England. Jefferson said, as you're well aware, "we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal" and so forth, and Lincoln picked up on that when he said that "our fore-fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

Idealistic to the extreme. I know you agree that it gets ya, right "here," but I would like to suggest that it also describes a purpose that Americans have had from the beginning to be a nation of ideals of liberty and opportunity, guided by laws, not merely of them.

Posted by: How Bad? | November 30, 2005 3:58 PM | Report abuse

You say: "Whether such prism is necessary is a different debate. I would say no, given the idealistic goals the United States was founded to achieve."

That's a fundamental disagreement I have with much debate on this topic. What "idealistic goals" was the USA founded to achieve? Independence from Britain. What else? The preamble to the Constitution reflects a concern for "ourselves and our posterity", i.e., for the current generation and their children. Outsiders were not really considered. For instance, this is what President Washington said at his Farewell Address:
"Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles."

In other words, President Washington praised the United States for its homogeneity. Is this an "idealistic founding principle"?

Posted by: TruthHurts | November 30, 2005 3:42 PM | Report abuse

A pity, it would be nice to know that other people cared about a strong clash of opinions based on reason. I respect your points, but still disagree.

To me the intention of the XIVth is too hard to gauge without bringing in so much historical knowledge it becomes an interpretation. I would say reading the words bare-faced still gives support to birthright citizenship and it's more interpretive to use the prism of historical context. Whether such prism is necessary is a different debate. I would say no, given the idealistic goals the United States was founded to achieve.

The crux of my arguments for overturning precedence was that past cases may have been wrong in this case. I would agree with you there is no precedent for overturning precedent (hah, that sounds like a politician-phrase), but think like the cases I cited before, that this one is worth revisiting. I'm sure it's related to my conclusion on the historical prism for reading the XIVth.

And the band played to the last...

Posted by: How Bad? | November 30, 2005 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Yes, getting to the substance of issues, as complicated as they are, seems to often drive nearly everyone away. It's sad to think that in the time of Abraham Lincoln, presidential debates lasted hours and were conducted throughout the country. Nowadays, no one seems to want to pay attention for more than a few seconds.

1. Re: Hamdi, I was merely using him as evidence that this issue is important and has consequences. The existence of bad birthright citizens is not, on its own, enough to justify a change in the law.

2. Re: Congressional intent. The point is that the Amendment can't self-evidently confer birthright citizenship because that's not what it was intended to do. It might incidentally confer such citizenship, but that's an issue of interpretation, not mere application. My earlier point was that birthright citizenship is an _interpretation_ of the Fourteenth Amendment. I stand by that point.

3. Re: Precedent. Sure, the Court overturns things from time to time, but that is not on its own evidence that the Slaughter House cases were wrong.

4. Re: that awkward phrase. You say: "Jurisdiction may mean allegiance, or it may mean falling under the watch of. I believe the latter." It's difficult, for sure. My reading on the issue has led me to conclude that the better interpretation should be "allegiance." But the words, as you point out, can be read either way.

Anyhoo, I suppose this thread will sputter to a halt now. Perhaps a few more posters will wander in . . . .

Posted by: TruthHurts | November 30, 2005 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Truth may hurt, but apparently an actual debate on laws and constitutional intent kills. Where have all the other posters gone?

I agree that whatever motives you have (or don't have) are ultimately inconsequential in the issue. You've proven to any critics that you're willing to discuss based on merits of law and philosophy.

Addressing your points in order:

The existance of a bad US citizen, such as Yasser Hamdi, doesn't justify to me the denying of citizenship to many others. You and I will probably always disagree on this, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't put forth our cases. I no more want Hamdi a citizen than Timothy McVeigh, but both, along with many others that discredit America, are citizens. Screening out children of illegal immigrants will do no more good to rid our country of those that shame it than not screening them.

It is a well regarded historical fact that the XIV Amendment was meant in regards to freed and yet to be freed slaves. You are absolutely right that the authors did not consciously choose to apply it to the offspring of illegal aliens. Nevertheless, that is what the Constitution says, we do not have the option of simply disregarding passages because we don't suspect they were meant to apply. After all, it is possible, and not improbable that the authors of the amendment was meant to put forth a statement about what it meant to be American in general, in light of the historic folly of slavery. It would not be the first time or the last our people made bold statements concerning a new vision for the organization of mankind.

Combining two points: The Supreme Court has an awful history of precedence. Plessy v. Ferguson, Dred Scott, etc, are all examples of disasterous Supreme Court rulings that were rightly overturned. No matter what both parties are saying right now, the court has never been impartial or legally neutral and has always made decisions based on the context of the times and prejudices of its members. In my opinion, it serves no harm for the Court to continue to consider this, at the very least because of the difference in opinions you and are are discussing. That's what they can do best, after all.

Finally, the jursidiction bit. The Constitution always suffers, great though it is, from the two-fold intentions of its authors. They are attempting to create a supreme law for the land while simultaneously write the mission statement for America. Jurisdiction may mean allegiance, or it may mean falling under the watch of. I believe the latter.

Is the Constitution not brilliant? You can take the things it says however you like, but it will always endure and come out a great deal better than any of us.

Posted by: How Bad? | November 30, 2005 2:54 PM | Report abuse

To "How Bad?"

I have not seen that film. If you are trying to look behind my arguments to see what motivates them, I'd have to say you aren't likely to find much. I care about this as a policy issue. No bad experiences with illegal aliens myself. Nuff said.

As to the 14th Amendment, I have a few points: First, this is a crucial issue. Remember Yaser Hamdi, the Saudi enemy combatant who happened to have been born in Louisiana (his father was on a work visa)? He was able to claim birthright citizenship even though he was an enemy combatant and a citizen of Saudi Arabia. Not good.

Second, it is clear that the 14th Amendment was _intended_ to address the situation of former slaves. So the language could apply to illegal aliens only by chance.

Third, the Supreme Court originally interpreted the Amendment not to grant citizenship to aliens. In The Slaughter House Cases (1873), the Court held that the jurisdiction requirement was "intended to exclude from [the Citizenship Clause's] operation children of ministers, consuls, and citizens or subjects of foreign states born within the United States."

Fourth, the real crux of this is the Amendment's language "and subject to the Jurisdiction thereof." This is generally taken to mean allegiance, not the need to comply with, say, traffic laws.

Finally, this is an open issue. The Supreme Court has never confirmed birthright citizenship for the children of illegal aliens, temporary workers, and tourists. (Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202, 211 n.10 (1982)).

Posted by: TruthHurts | November 30, 2005 2:30 PM | Report abuse

TruthHurts- You haven't seen "12 Angry Men" then? That would be why it doesn't make sense. It's a pretty long explanation, but the point of it all is there's a character who is impassioned beyond what an unconnected person would be and it turns out it's because he's viewing the trial through the prism of his own bad experience with illegal immigrants. I was wondering why as a simple policy issue this provokes such vehemence from you. No accusations were made, the reference to "their kind" was to identify which character, which obviously would be meaningless without having seen it.

It's more difficult to interpret the XIV Amendment that way because it requires you to insert an exception clause. It would have to read "All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the Jurisdiction thereof [except those whose parents entered the country illegally], are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside..."

As the two qualifications currently exist someone must be 1) born or naturalized (by such process as Congress requires) and 2) responsible to the nation's laws. The first for children of illegal immigrants is undebated, in fact it's that which has caused all this. The second, as you yourself point out several times, is also true. Anyone in the United States (not travelling as a representative of a foreign country) is bound by the laws of the United States.

So to turn it back to you, why should we imagine that conspicuously absent exception clause to be there?

Posted by: How Bad? | November 30, 2005 2:15 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Truthhurt, but at the same time I have to say that the tone of your postings suggests that you really don't care much for foreigners. You have to admit that without them this country would not exist. However, they got here, by boat, by air, cross the border. Let's deal with the issue of why they come to begin with. They are just trying to find a better life. Yes there are evil people who come as well, but evil exist here just as bad. Try to find a way to help them, not hurt them. They are humans just like you.

Posted by: real change | November 30, 2005 2:14 PM | Report abuse

To "Jason":

Oh, gotcha. I misread your earlier post.

I agree with that: the emphasis should be on punishing corporations that hire illegal workers. That would be a very effective strategy, and probably would seem less vindictive than going after the immigrants themselves.
However, eliminating the option of birthright citizenship would also help, and would be a crucial component of any true "guest worker" program (otherwise, they'd never leave because they'd have U.S. citizen children as an anchor).

Posted by: TruthHurts | November 30, 2005 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, I forgot to identify myself in my last post.

Posted by: Jason | November 30, 2005 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Hi, TruthHurts

I did not mean "political" party, I meant that you should direct your venom toward the corporations such as Wal-Mart and those that directly hire illegal immigrants in order to pay substandard wages and benefits rather than direct your venom at the illegals themselves who are just hard-working people who are trying for a better life then they might or would have otherwise.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 30, 2005 2:07 PM | Report abuse

To the illegal immigration supporters: Please refrain from making the ugly assumption that because someone is against illegal immigration, he is a 'bigot' or a 'racist'. It's not very nice, and should be avoided unless _solid evidence_ suggests otherwise. Being against illegal immigration is not, on its own, evidence of racism or bigotry.

Posted by: TruthHurts | November 30, 2005 2:07 PM | Report abuse

To "Jason":

You say: "Don't you realize that your venom is spread at the wrong party."

I don't follow you. I haven't directed my arguments at either political party. I've tried to stick to the merits of the issue. What precisely are you referring to?

Posted by: TruthHurts | November 30, 2005 2:04 PM | Report abuse

To "How Bad?"

You say: "Your assertion that the Supreme Court "interpreted" this to mean being born in the US was grounds for citizenship is strictly true, but misleading given the conotations of the word "interpret" when used with the Supreme Court. As should be obvious from above it actually takes greater effort to interpret the XIV Amendment not to cover children of illegal aliens than it does to interpret the other (current) way."

Why does it take "greater effort"? I don't think the 14th amendment self-evidently enshrines birthright citizenship. Why would you think it does?

You also say: "why is this so personal for you? You remind me of that one guy in "12 Angry Men" always talking about "their kind.""

Nice insult. Please identify a single post in which I have written about "their kind" or suggested anything insulting about illegal aliens. I have written about it as an important policy issue. It matters to me, and it should matter to all Americans. However, I have not expressed a single bigoted thought. I challenge you to prove otherwise, and if you cannot, I urge you to avoid such insults in the future.

Posted by: TruthHurts | November 30, 2005 2:02 PM | Report abuse


Don't you realize that your venom is spread at the wrong party. It should be directed at Wal-Mart and the corporations who don't want to pay decent wages. Also, please realize that if the wages went up so would the price of products. I'm not against that happening but you should include that fact in your argument. Also illegal immigrants work very hard at very difficult jobs that contribute to their economic well-being of this country. I don't need a study to tell me that; I have a brain.

Posted by: Jason | November 30, 2005 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Your comments on the qualifications of native-born citizens is slightly misleading TruthHurts. Amendment XIV, Section 1 states that "All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the Jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside..."

Your assertion that the Supreme Court "interpreted" this to mean being born in the US was grounds for citizenship is strictly true, but misleading given the conotations of the word "interpret" when used with the Supreme Court. As should be obvious from above it actually takes greater effort to interpret the XIV Amendment not to cover children of illegal aliens than it does to interpret the other (current) way.

On a different note, why is this so personal for you? You remind me of that one guy in "12 Angry Men" always talking about "their kind."

Posted by: How Bad? | November 30, 2005 1:56 PM | Report abuse

ch in texas,
You are correct about the corporate world begging for illegal labor and for outsourcing, but your understanding of their motivation is wrong.

Their problem isn't a shortage of labor. Their problem is cutting costs to boost profit margins. The biggest expense for technology companies is their highly educated laborforce. To outsource to India is to be able to hire 12 software developers for the price of one American developer. When each American software developer is averaging $75k - that's a humongous savings!

Illegal aliens offer the same profit motivations for other industries such as real estate development. Construction/carpenter jobs used to be very high paying blue collar work for American citizens. The illegals work for so little money that developers won't even hire Americans anymore.

The whole Bush spiel "they do the jobs that no American wants" is disingenuous and dispicable. The fact is that no one wants those jobs at the wages illegals are willing to work for.

How do they survive at those low wage levels? They overcrowd their housing situations (sometimes living 3 families within a 3BR apartment). Most communities have strict density laws regarding residential housing so law-abiding citizens couldn't make those sacrifices if they wanted to, not that many would.

On the economic front it is not about scarcity in labor, it's about reducing wages so companies can increase their profit margins. And this comes at the expense of liveable wages for Americans, less services for the taxes we pay, higher healthcare costs, a deteriorating educational system, a growing illegal alien prison population, and an overall lesser standard of living in the U.S.

Posted by: sm | November 30, 2005 1:55 PM | Report abuse

To "ch in Texas": By the way, I'm still waiting for you to actually cite anything regarding the supposed economic benefits of illegal immigrants. Any study, any article will do. Bald assertions aren't very persuasive.

Posted by: TruthHurts | November 30, 2005 1:48 PM | Report abuse

To "ch in Texas": Leaving aside your lame attempts at venom and your weird capitalizations, your post boils down to this: "My post was merely a comment on the economic factors that favor increased immigration. Since US policies aren't keeping up with demand, Corporate America happily accepts illegal immigration. This is a reality. Not an opinion."

You seem to lack a basic understanding of economics. Labor is a commodity, like any other. So of course employers ("Corporate America") want the cheapest labor they can find. They use illegal aliens because they cost less. However, we live in a regulated economy. There are rules. One of those rules is that employers should not employ illegal aliens; they should instead employ citizens or legal aliens. This is the economic part: If they can't find them cheap enough, they have to raise wages until the pay is attractive enough to lure in legal workers. Allowing them to undercut that rule and avoid raising wages by instead breaking the law and hiring illegal aliens is not, as you say, merely an "economic factor". It's an issue of whether we are going to enforce the laws that we have on the books.

Posted by: TruthHurts | November 30, 2005 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Your prejudices are showing, TruthHurts. And your name calling is just sad. "It's the Economy, Stupid" is a well-known election slogan, so don't take it personally.

I'll help YOU out: My focus on the economy doesn't assume ANYTHING about cultural or linguistic cohesiveness. I actually favor everyone learning English, but that wasn't the point I wanted to make. My post was merely a comment on the economic factors that favor increased immigration. Since US policies aren't keeping up with demand, Corporate America happily accepts illegal immigration. This is a reality. Not an opinion.

Stop looking for scapegoats. There has been an explosion in DEMAND, resulting in the need for more labor. Concurrently, many factory jobs have been lost to outsourcing and/or plant closures in the US. Previously employed folks who are now searching for jobs can't really blame the immigrants who occupy those jobs. When Americans had their nice Union jobs they didn't want to scrub toilets. Corporate America found someone who did. Blame Corporate America.

Bush wouldn't be pushing for a guest worker program if Big Business wasn't pushing him for it.

Posted by: ch in texas | November 30, 2005 1:35 PM | Report abuse

A challenge to the illegal immigration supporters: What would you think of illegal immigration if the economic part of it was off the table? I'm curious. In other words, if we had to debate illegal immigration on any basis _except_ the economy, would your position stay the same or would it change? Such bases might include: security, terrorism, language, culture, race, rule of law, etc. I would love to read your opinions.

Posted by: TruthHurts | November 30, 2005 1:35 PM | Report abuse

To "corbett". You couldn't be more wrong. What provision in the U.S. Constitution says this? Answer: none. It's an interpretation of the 14th Amendment by the Supreme Court. See this:

Posted by: TruthHurts | November 30, 2005 1:23 PM | Report abuse

average bear wrote: "generally, they pay sales, property, and payroll taxes without being able to use many of the services those taxes pay for."

Very few Illegals pay payroll taxes and even fewer own houses and pay real estate taxes.

Yet they get free medical attention (which Americans don't) when they need hospital care. The hospitals have to recoup those costs by charging Americans higher costs for healthcare. And if American citizens can't pay their own hospital bills the hospitals will take their houses and garnish their wages.

Their children get free public education and now many states are having to hire Spanish-speaking teachers because their children can't even speak English. Again, more taxpayer expense in accomodating them.

After all the loitering around small towns in America, some towns are having to use taxpayer money to build them "day labor" buildings where they can sit and wait for their law-breaking employers to come illegally hire them for the day. More taxpayer money being spent on illegals.

This country will NEVER be able to provide a better quality of life for Americans (accessible healthcare, better education, social services for the homeless and needy citizens) if all our money is going to have to support the illegal aliens' needs.

Posted by: Independent | November 30, 2005 1:23 PM | Report abuse

modaddy says "CUT out the ruling that babies born here are automatic citizens."

Ruling? See, this is where so many problems come from - a lack of education on the subject.

There is no ruling saying that children born here are US citizens. Rather, it's the US Constitution that says so.

Posted by: corbett | November 30, 2005 1:20 PM | Report abuse

To "ch in Texas". As the quote indicated, I'm relying on a study by a University of Florida economist, as reported in the Orlando Sentinal newspaper. Fox News was not mentioned in my post.

I am not misinformed -- on the contrary, I provided concrete evidence of my point. You, on the other hand, have failed to do anything other than make a bald assertion. What are these "studies" you claim to have read?

Posted by: TruthHurts | November 30, 2005 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Truth Hurts - You are misinformed. Studies I've read indicate that the benefits of illegal immigrants outweigh the costs, especially when one considers all factors. Studies you rely on are obviously cherry-picking benefits/costs. Are you relying on FOX News, because that can really downgrade the quality of your information.

Posted by: ch in Texas | November 30, 2005 1:17 PM | Report abuse

To "Shocked and Apalled": I couldn't agree more. Name calling always seems to infect discussions of illegal immigration. It is unfortunate and not helpful. Whether or not one supports the presence if illegal aliens in this country, calling them "maggots" is not appropriate.

Posted by: TruthHurts | November 30, 2005 1:15 PM | Report abuse

To "ch in texas". Your focus solely on the economy assumes that other issues, such as cultural or linguistic cohesiveness, are so lacking in merit that they need not even be discussed. I think you are wrong in that regard.

Additionally, your belief that illegal immigrants do jobs that "Americans won't do" does not account for how all those jobs were done back before we had an explosion of illegal immigration. I'll help you out: Americans did those jobs, for decent wages. That was the economy before it was corrupted by illegal immigration, stupid.

Posted by: TruthHurts | November 30, 2005 1:11 PM | Report abuse

I'm stunned at the xenophobia exhibited here. Imagine if this paper didn't draw a self-selecting leftist crowd. Maggots, modaddy? You must not be one of them compassionate conservatives.

The US can help alleviate the problems of illegal immigrants by working on conditions in their home countries. We can insist that governments we trade with protect their workers' rights and pay a wage they can survive on, for example. We can work with our allies to alleviate debts that cripple developing economies, we can continue to provide incentives for responsible development, and we can impose tougher regulations on US companies that use foreign countries to dodge US standards of treatment for employees (coincidentally costing us jobs).

There's a lot we can do, maybe even a security fence. I don't encourage turning ourselves into ethnocentric idiots that spew ugly words at human beings in rotten situations.

Posted by: Shocked and Apalled | November 30, 2005 1:11 PM | Report abuse

"So why are GOP leaders talking up immigration controls?"

Southern Strategy.

Posted by: J. Crozier | November 30, 2005 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Average Bear: Actually, studies have shown that illegal immigrants cost more than they provide, in taxes, etc. E.g., "a renowned University of Florida economist who is admittedly pro-immigration in his personal politics has found that its net financial cost to taxpayers is much larger than anyone had been able to quantify previously," the Orlando Sentinel writes. "[UF economist David Denslow] crunched the numbers and found in Florida each immigrant household costs the state roughly $1,800 on a net basis. In other words, $1,800 is the total of how much more public services immigrants consume mostly Medicaid and education and how much less in taxes they pay than does the average resident.""

Posted by: TruthHurts | November 30, 2005 1:08 PM | Report abuse

All this foaming at the mouth is foolish and sadly demonstrates the level of ignorance that abounds. The reason many of these people are "illegal" is because our immigration policies do not reflect the realities of our economy. So much pompous talk of laws! We "respect" laws so much that we launch an unjust war and we shrug at torture??? Illegal immigrants are only desperate people who risk much, and often leave family behind, to come here for a chance to work and provide for their loved ones. They aren't asking for handouts, just a crappy job. They aren't a security problem either - they're the ones who care for our children, clean our toilets, serve our food in restaurants and build all those status symbol McMansions. Their US born children even serve in our military, giving their lives for the fantasy legacy of a pathetic president. They make possible - at a very cheap price - all the niceties to which "real" Americans are greedily availing themselves. The reason they come is because there is a DEMAND FOR THEM in the US by Corporate and Small Business America. Our economy wants them here. (Yeah, it's the Econonmy, Stupid.) The free market at work! Funny how everyone wants to be a Republican (another status symbol, I guess) except when the free market works against their petty belief systems. I suggest that the impact they make on our economy as a whole is favorable even compared to the costs to our health care, education and prison systems. And I have to laugh here because the problems with those systems aren't even the tiniest bit the fault of illegals, but another can of worms entirely. Actually, these are the topics that SHOULD command our attention, but instead we get fired up about silly things like people working here illegally.

Posted by: ch in texas | November 30, 2005 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Average Bear: Actually, studies have shown that illegal immigrants cost more than they provide, in taxes, etc. E.g., >

Posted by: TruthHurts | November 30, 2005 1:07 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Your Average Bear, and I must say that most illegal immigrants do not live "comfortably" in the U.S. The life of an illegal here is very difficult, and most would do anything necessary to become legal, except return to the misery of their own country. We should understand that most faced great hardship and danger just to cross our border, and they are People just like you and me, not maggots who come to steal from our wealthy country.

Something must be done to solve the problems of illegal immigration, and I pray that the President for once will make a good decision and get a real and workable plan in place by 2007.

Posted by: atarrill | November 30, 2005 1:01 PM | Report abuse

We need to get the system working correctly. A guest worker program, with viable tracking measures, true punishment for illegals, and realistic controls on the border, fence included.

Posted by: Crazy Politico | November 30, 2005 12:53 PM | Report abuse

I think the government need to do something about immigration, by making it easier for people who file for relatives to get their permanent resident status. Why should it take 15-20 years for someone to be called to an interview after the petition was approved. It is absolutely ridiculous, and that is where the problem need to be fixed. Get rid of the backlog and make more visas available.

Posted by: real change | November 30, 2005 12:42 PM | Report abuse

average bear,
I agree that you are correct about that one poll being a "clear plurality" and that the author's wording was technically correct.

However, this author's entire column, comparing "either/or" polls with opinion polls to confuse his readers about the importance of illegal immigration to the public majority is disengenious at best. He is clearly Pro-Illegal Immigration.

Posted by: sm | November 30, 2005 12:34 PM | Report abuse

If you're a legal alien, then Welcome Aboard! Glad to have you. Hope you succeed in legally obtaining your citizenship.

If you're illegal then it's time to leave. You're killing our healthcare industry, our social services, our public education system. You're stealing our low-paying jobs (yes, believe it or not, not everyone in America went to Yale and doesn't want those jobs) and you're keeping wages from rising in the process. You're wiring a large portion of your wages back to your home countries (and out of our economy where it is needed), and you're destroying our quality of life as hundreds of day laborers descend upon and loiter in towns across America waiting for contractors to illegally pick them up.

America has huge deficits. We can't afford to take in and educate and provide free healthcare for an entire 3rd world country, as they take our jobs and lower our wages. We can't even provide healthcare and decent education for our own citizens.

My grandparents came as legal aliens. Immigrants today are given the same opportunities to come here legally as mine were given then. If you decide not to go through the legal process, but to jump the fence, then you are ILLEGAL. PERIOD. You're being here illegally does NOT entitle you to a US citizenship.

America is a country of LEGAL immigrants and is governed by laws.

Posted by: Independent | November 30, 2005 12:11 PM | Report abuse

sm's point on the idea of this being presented as an either/or is well taken, but the criticism of mr. cillizza's wording is misplaced. 51-37 is indeed a "bare" majority, while also being a "clear" plurality. There's a significant difference between majority and plurality, and mr. cillizza's wording is an accurate representation of the poll results.

on a seperate point, it's worth noting that the economic impact of illegal immigrants is not simply them draining resources. generally, they pay sales, property, and payroll taxes without being able to use many of the services those taxes pay for. they contribute a great deal of money to the government and will never draw a cent in social security, medicare, and depending on the location a wide variety of state and local benefits. as they rarely have money to save, what they earn is spent in the local economy, providing an additional benefit. where the precise balance of what they contribute against what they use is difficult to say, as statistics on this subject are unsurprisingly hard to determine. so, modaddy, before you threaten them with machine guns ans call their children maggots while demanding to know who pays, remember that the answer is them too.

Posted by: your average bear | November 30, 2005 12:00 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the writer who states the truth: My father was on a waiting list in 19928 to come to America from Germany, he could read and write, and was willing to work hard all his life to pursue the American Dream. As long as the needy know we foolishly will foot the bill for pregnancies, illegal entry, and make life comfortable for people crossing the southern borders, we shall have opportunists who want to come to America. I welcome anyone here---who came here LEGALLY. Rules are rules ands laws were made to be obeyed. Get on a waiting list, learn some skills, and, alas for us with the insular mindset, learn ENGLISH!

Posted by: trudy | November 30, 2005 11:55 AM | Report abuse

I agree with the writer who sttes the truth: My father was on a waiting list in 19928 to come to America from gErmany, he could read and write, and was willing t owork hard all his life to pursue the American Dream. As long as the needy know we foolishly will foot the bill for pregnancies, illegal entry, and make life comfortable for people crossing the southern borders, we shall have opportunists who want to come to America. I welcome anyone here---who came her LEGALLY. Rules are rules ands laws were made to be obeyed.

Posted by: trudy | November 30, 2005 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Immigration indeed is a problem especially when it affects the taxpayer. I'm sure the interst intensifies for those on the border in AC, AZ, NM, TX compared to DC and OH.

It becomes problematic when band aid solutions are imposed such as when states opt to issue drivers licenses to illegals.

It is problematic when states pass English Only laws but no assistance for providing English and citizenship classes.

It is a problem when Dream Act legislation is proposed to deal with illegal alien students who have not legalized their status.

It is a problem to the thousands of dedicated immigration officers and Border Patrol staff who labor to enforce the law knowing that their lawmakers are not serious about fixing this problem.

Immigration is a complex and comprehensive problem that needs to be reformed at the national level.

I am pro-immigrant since my father and grandparents like millions others came and worked hard for their families and adopted country. The same hold true today. The difference is, my folks were given the chance to come LEGALLY. Legal makes all the difference in the world. America needs to recall its history and recognize that we are a country of immigrants and that we need immigrants today and for the future. Presently our work force needs these workers in so many different areas and not just for entry level jobs. We need these workers to pay taxes, esp social security taxes.

We can and should admit as resident aliens anyone who has proof of a job offer. AS long as a job is available we will have an immigrant willing and able to fill it. There just aren't enough native-born Americans which is now obvious.

My fear is that any changes that come about will only be temporary much like they were in 1996 and 1986. Perhaps something is better than nothing. Standby.

Posted by: vivabush04 | November 30, 2005 11:36 AM | Report abuse

I don't believe there's any contradiction in the Illegal Immigration polls, as is implied in this column. The author here is merely comparing apples and oranges to try to confuse the readers into believing that Illegal Immigration is perhaps not as important to Americans as it really is.

The Washington Post/ABC News poll and the NBC/Wall Street survey both measure the Illegal Immigration issue ONLY as it is RELATIVE to other more important issues, such as WAR and the ECONOMY (i.e. people's ability to provide for their families).

Is Illegal Immigration as serious to the public as these two issues? Of course not, yet the author uses this info to conclude "So, by and large, voters nationwide do not see illegal immigration as a pressing priority for the government."

Voters can see the illegal immigration problem as a pressing priority for the government, but perhaps just not as important as WAR and the ECONOMY. Solving these problems are not mutually exclusive undertakings, yet you're trying to use the "EITHER, OR" qualities of these two polls to make the implication that people don't feel the problem warrants immediate attention.

If the government could only solve one problem this year then voters would probably want it to end the war. If it could solve two then voters might want the second to be the economy. Fortunately the government can solve MANY problems in a given year.

The Fox News/Opinion Dynamics and CBS News Poll both measure the public's opinions on the Illegal Immigration issue on its own - NOT as it is RELATIVE to other more important issues like WAR. The public clearly wants something to be done about Illegal Immigration as 78% (in the Fox Poll) and 75% (in the CBS Poll) feel the federal government is NOT doing enough in securing the country's borders and in stopping Illegal Immigration.

The author's wording in his quote below suggests his Pro-Illegal-Immigration views:

"In that same October poll, a bare majority (51 percent) favored "a proposal to build a 2,000 mile long security fence along the U.S.-Mexico border to stop illegal immigration." Thirty-seven percent opposed such a plan"

A "bare" majority? 51% versus 49% is a "bare" majority. 51% versus 37% as is indicated in this poll is a CLEAR majority.

Posted by: sm | November 30, 2005 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Put up a fence and recruit the infamous Rat Patrol to patrol the fences with 50 caliber machine guns. That ought to put the fear of whatever in illegal immigrant eyes. CUT out the ruling that babies born here are automatic citizens. This is the 21st century right? Why should I, as an American taxpayer, foot the bill for illegal people coming here? Uh, they don't have insurance for spitting out maggots in our hospitals. Who Pays?

Posted by: modaddy | November 30, 2005 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Once again the nation is forced to make a tedious rhetorical detour so the president can throw red meat to his base. Bush's pandering grows more tiresome as his credibility drains slowly away.

Posted by: Mike 234 | November 30, 2005 10:03 AM | Report abuse

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