Americans have consistently said that they want immigration levels to “remain the same” or be decreased. Many so-called immigration “reformers” have simply ignored them.
As a result, one of the most egregious elements of the Senate’s 2013 bill was that it would have enormously increased the number of legal immigrants allowed into the United States. Just how many new legal immigrants would have been allowed in is a matter of debate, but by any fair look, the numbers would be substantial — at least double and most likely more.
Of course, providing unlimited visas for those “waiting in line” as the Senate bill did is a choice, not a necessity, and those persons would have been immediately eligible to sponsor their relatives, as would any other of the estimated 11.7 million illegal immigrants who are eventually offered citizenship.
Estimates of how the various legal entry options would work out for future immigration flows is a difficult and tricky question, but the apparent agreement of a base estimate that doubles legal immigration is the equivalent of the bill’s sponsors, both Democratic and Republican, holding up a large middle finger to the American public.
In the Sides/Citrin paper we have been examining, there is further evidence that “no more”, as a general, not a numerically specific position, is a bedrock American immigration position.
Their paper asked about preferred future immigration levels, but in a way I’ve not encountered before.
Rather than give three options (more, less, the same), they gave five, allowing respondents to choose increasing (or decreasing) future immigration “a lot” or “a little”, as well as the usual “stay the same” option. More interestingly, they broke the sample into three parts, each of which got a different question: one was the normal future level question; one gave respondents an accurate number of current legal immigration and an estimate of the yearly illegal immigrant numbers as part of the question about future options choices; and a third added to those figures the information that “40 percent of all immigrants come from Mexico.”
In each of the three experimental “conditions” (question wording) the researchers also collected data on “whether illegal immigration is a serious issue, both in the country and in the areas where the respondents live; how long immigrants should have to wait before they are eligible for certain government benefits; and the preferred policy for dealing with illegal immigrants.”
The results provide further evidence of American bedrock positions on basic immigration questions and evidence that charges of racism and nativism are incorrect.
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