A majority of Latino voters perceive the border-security-first-legalization-second approach as a way to halt progress on immigration reform, according to poll findings.
A Latino Decisions poll found that 62 percent of Latino voters believe politicians who call for secure borders as a prerequisite to other immigration policy changes—such as paving a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants—use that as an excuse to try to block action on immigration reform.
The poll also found that 24 percent of Latino voters believe that politicians who push for border security do so because they are legitimately concerned with border control.
Though the poll was conducted in November 2011, Sylvia Manzano, a senior analyst at Latino Decisions, said she believes there’s a similar sentiment among Latino voters today. She said there’s no theoretical reason to think that it could have changed—if anything, it could have heightened because of the recent efforts to draft a new immigration reform bill.
Last week, two immigration reform proposals—one from a group of bipartisan senators and another from President Barack Obama—were unveiled. Both proposals call for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants as well as efforts to improve border security, two elements Manzano deemed necessary for an immigration reform.
“They are not mutually exclusive,” she said about border security and a path to citizenship. “You can’t have one without the other.”
Immigration reform enforcement efforts have ‘languished’
Steven Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies, said he agrees that it is going to take more than just ramping up border security to solve the nation’s illegal immigration dilemma. However, he disagrees with the majority of Latino voters who told Latino Decisions that they believe politicians push for border security in order to halt progress on immigration reform.
Camarota said politicians who push for a border-security-first-legalization-second approach do so because they are concerned about border control. He said they also do so because they see that most Americans feel that not enough has been done to enforce the nation’s immigration laws.
“The public feels strongly that enforcement efforts have languished,” he told VOXXI. “That’s what is driving these politicians to push for more enforcement.”
Camarota argued that more can be done to ramp up enforcement in different areas, such as in the immigration court system where only about half of the undocumented immigrants facing deportation show up when they are given a court date.
He also warned that following a legalize-first-enforce-second approach would result in the nation repeating what happened in 1986 when nearly three million undocumented immigrants were legalized but the promise to improve border security was broken.