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Poll split: Borders vs. new citizens

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By McClatchy Newspapers
Thursday, July 25, 2013, 7:09 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Americans want the nation's broken immigration system fixed, but they are torn over how to do it.

A new McClatchy-Marist poll found the public split along familiar lines. Republicans want changes to be mostly about protecting the borders, while Democrats favor a path to citizenship for most of the undocumented immigrants in the country.

Congress is mired in talks over how to mend the immigration system. The Democrat-run Senate last month passed bipartisan legislation that would establish a 13-year path to citizenship for most of the nation's estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, but the Republican-run House of Representatives refuses to even debate it.

“People are eager to see action on immigration reform,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College in New York, which conducted the poll. “This is a high priority. But gridlock sets in because people are divided about what path it should take.”

The partisan schism mirrors the national rift. While slightly more than half view immigration policy as an immediate priority, and another third see it as a priority over the next few years, people are split over remedies. Nearly half of registered voters want changes to be mostly about stronger border protection, while 43 percent want to concentrate on a path to citizenship.

Republicans prefer border security first by a 3-to-1 margin; Democrats want the citizenship policy first, 2-to-1.

The poll is also a reminder of the political stakes. Republicans have given immigration urgency as they struggle to woo Latino voters. The party's 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, got an estimated 27 percent of the Hispanic vote last year.

Latinos are watching the debate closely, and nearly two-thirds of Hispanic adults want a path to citizenship as a priority. Whites rank border security first, 53-38 percent.

The telephone survey of 1,024 adults was conducted July 15-18. The results are statistically significant within 2.8 percentage points.

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