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Immigration reform: public support for a path to citizenship at all-time high

As the 'Gang of Eight' prepares to unveil its immigration reform proposal, several new polls shed light on shifting attitudes among Americans on a path to citizenship.

By Husna HaqCorrespondent / April 16, 2013

An immigration reform supporter flies the American flag during a march last week, in San Francisco. Nearly two-thirds of Americans, or 63 percent, support a program giving undocumented immigrants a path to legal status, poll finds.

Ben Margot/AP

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As a bipartisan group of senators prepares to unveil its immigration reform proposal, several new polls show support for a path to citizenship at an all-time high.

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An ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that nearly two-thirds of Americans, or 63 percent, support a program giving undocumented immigrants a path to legal status. That’s a sharp increase from a similar poll conducted in 2007, which shows a nearly even 49-to-46 percent split on the issue. 

But if the Sunday talk-show blitz by Sen. Marco Rubio (R) of Florida is any indication, the so-called Gang of Eight has a ways to go in drumming up more support for and hammering out the details of immigration reform.

That much was clear in the ABC News poll. While support for legalization was highest among Democrats, with 75 percent supporting such a process, support fell to 47 percent among Republicans. (Some 67 percent of independents support a citizenship process, according to the poll.)

Although the Gang of Eight is on the verge of releasing its bipartisan immigration reform proposal, sticking points remain, including how to better secure borders and handle temporary guest workers.

By and large, Americans appear to support tougher border security as well as more visas for workers, especially high-skilled ones. Some 60 percent of poll respondents back issuing more visas for highly skilled workers, and 56 percent for a low-skilled guest-worker program.

On enforcement, 67 percent support more federal spending on border control, and a broad 83 percent favor requiring that all businesses check potential employees’ immigration status.

The poll shows some of the highest support yet for a pathway to legalization for illegal immigrants, and many of those immigrants appear to be quietly taking note.

Eighty-seven percent of illegal immigrants say they would pursue citizenship if given the chance, according to a poll by Latino Decisions released Monday.

The poll, which was paid for by two pro-immigration groups, also showed that undocumented Latino immigrants have “deep roots in America.” Some 85 percent claim a family member who is a US citizen, 62 percent claim at least one US-born child, and 29 percent claim a spouse who is a citizen or permanent resident.

As the GOP moves past its 2012 defeat and confronts its “minority problem,” these and other similar polls, including an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, show that the majority of the nation – from Congress to lay Americans of varying political stripes and demographic backgrounds – may finally be on the same page on a pathway to legalization for illegal immigrants.

The next hurdle now is how.

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