Americans want to give undocumented a break

A new USA Today/Gallup Poll showed a whopping 78 percent of the U.S. public favor giving all or most of the 12 million undocumented immigrants a chance to legalize and eventually become U.S. citizens.

The poll results fly in the face of ultra-right and anti-immigrant organizations’ claims that the American people reject such a solution.

The poll, carried out on April 13 and 14, also suggests that immigration is not at the forefront of the worries of the U.S. public. “Immigration” and “illegal immigration” ranked low in the topics of concern listed by respondents, far behind the Iraq war, Social Security, the economy and health care.

Among the poll results:

• Seventy-eight percent of respondents said undocumented immigrants now in the United States should be allowed to regularize their status here, while only 14 percent said they should be kicked out and never allowed to return, and 6 percent said they should be allowed to return only as temporary workers.

• Showing some unevenness and confusion within the 78 percent group, 42 percent said the undocumented should be required to leave but allowed to return to eventually acquire citizenship, while 39 percent said they should be allowed to be legalized without having to leave and return.

• The respondents preferred keeping families together with 49 percent saying priority in future immigration should be given to people who have family members living in the United States, while 38 percent said that preference should be given to people who are highly educated and have prime skills.

What do these results mean? First of all, with the intense pro- and anti-immigrant agitation of the past year, with the huge pro-immigrant marches and rallies on the one side and the relatively small, yet vicious, racist anti-immigrant hate campaigns on the other, the pro-immigrant forces are ahead.

Secondly, those politicians who are supportive of immigrant rights should not be afraid of voting for pro-immigrant legislation and against anti-immigrant legislation.

Finally, these results, and also results from a California poll which show that more than 80 percent of the citizens of that state favor legalization of the undocumented, could serve as ammunition for pro-immigrant and pro-worker activists in upcoming hearings on immigration reform legislation to fight for more generous terms for legalization and more protections for both immigrant and U.S.-born workers.