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Arizona Law Highlights Need for Meaningful Reform

By       Message Joel Wendland     Permalink
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Most Americans want immediate action on comprehensive immigration
reform, new polling data revealed this week. A poll conducted by Lake
Research Partners and Public Opinion Strategies found that more than
three in four Americans from both major parties and in all geographic
regions of the country support immigration reform.

After passage of Arizona's immigration law, which experts believe will
promote racial profiling and overwhelm local police forces, many
commentators have insisted that Americans are not in the mood for
comprehensive immigration reform.

The results of this survey, however, showed that most people view the
Arizona law as an unfortunate reaction to federal foot-dragging on
reform. Instead of a punitive or enforcement-only response to
immigration on the state or local level, Americans, including a
significant majority of Latinos, want comprehensive federal action with
four basic parts:

1) Increased security at the border

2) Crack down on employers who knowingly hire unauthorized workers

3) Require unauthorized workers to register, undergo background checks
and learn English

4) Unauthorized immigrants should get in line for citizenship

The poll found that of the people who support the Arizona law, most were
likely to be white, male, Republican and supporters of the Tea Party.
Others, however, who did not fit these categories say they support the
law only out of frustration with the lack of federal action on
comprehensive reform.

Opponents of the Arizona law said they believe the law will promote
racial profiling and other un-Constitutional police measures, the survey

David Mermin, a pollster with Lake Research Partners, explained apart
from extremist anti-immigrant sentiments, "the sense that the system is
out of control and that there isn't a legal orderly process by which
people are immigrating" drives most attitudes about immigration reform.

"The vast majority of Americans think we should still be welcoming
immigrants," he said, "but they want that done in a legal way."

"Folks don't want some sort of draconian enforcement effort where you
try to round up millions of people," Mermin added, "they want people to
register, to get in line, to pay taxes, to learn English, to become

"You see enormous support for that approach to dealing with immigrants,"
he explained.

According to recent analysis published by the Immigration Policy Center,
the economic contributions of undocumented immigrants far outweigh
perceived costs of illegal immigration. According to that pro-reform
group, in the state of Arizona alone, unauthorized immigrants add some
$26.4 billion each year to the state's economy annually, including tax
revenues and job-creating business activity.

Economists also believe claims that immigrants "steal" jobs in America
from citizens remain unsubstantiated.

Even further, a number of studies of federal crime statistics in
the past few years have repeatedly shown that immigrants are less likely
to commit crimes than the native-born population.

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--Joel Wendland is editor of Political Affairs.

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