WASHINGTON — Immigration reform has flatlined in Congress, but Florida voters overwhelmingly support changes and reject the Republican contention that a lack of enforcement of current law is reason not to act, a new poll released Wednesday shows.
Sixty-seven percent of voters said they support a plan that secures the borders, mandates employee verification, expands work visas and provides a path to citizenship for young immigrants brought to the United States illegally by their parents while providing other undocumented residents legal status, according to the poll for the pro-reform Partnership for a New American Economy.
Seventy-six percent dismissed the GOP argument about a lack of enforcement being a reason not to move on immigration reform. Nearly as many, 71 percent, said they would rather vote for a presidential candidate from a political party that supports immigration reform.
The automated survey of 500 people by Harper Polling was conducted June 23-25 and comes as reform advocates make yet another push. Polling was done in other states, with similarly high support for reform.
The results were released as part of a "national day of action" by immigration reform groups. The Florida survey found 76 percent of voters think it is very important or somewhat important for Congress to act this year.
But the issue is dead for the time being on Capitol Hill, held up in the GOP-led House. The influx of children arriving at the border with Mexico has only inflamed partisan differences and calls from Republicans for a border-first approach.
"We've been told for years, 'The border is secure, the border is secure,' " Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said in a conference call Tuesday with reporters in Colorado. (Rubio has endorsed Senate candidate Cory Gardner.)
"It is my opinion, after being deeply involved in this issue, that the only way you're going to deal with this issue is in a sequential way," said Rubio, who helped write the comprehensive Senate bill last year.
Now Rubio envisions a three-step approach that would begin with security, set up a merit-based legal immigration system and then deal with more than 11 million undocumented residents. Rubio said the third step would grant "non permanent visas" to people who pass a background check and pay a fine.
That leaves out the path to citizenship that Democrats and allies say is necessary, though a Rubio spokesman said the lawmaker's support for that remains. (The poll question also was vague on that contentious point.)
U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Miami, said the poll should be no surprise. Indeed, other surveys have shown public support for reform.
"Voters have been demanding a change to our broken immigration system for years," Garcia said. "That is why I have been so adamant about challenging both Republicans, and the president on this issue."