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Most Latin American illegals back bill provisions

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Sixty percent of Latin American illegal aliens would try take advantage of provisions in the current Senate immigration bill to get on a path to citizenship, according to a new poll released yesterday.

The poll, of 1,600 Latin American illegal aliens, found 83 percent said they would apply for instant legal status under a new Z visa, and of those 76 percent were very or somewhat likely to apply for a green card or legal permanent residence, the interim step on the path to citizenship.

The vast majority of illegal aliens said they would be willing to be fingerprinted and undergo a background check, show a work history and pay fines to gain legal status. The biggest obstacle was requiring illegal aliens to return home at some point to pick up a visa — a requirement that 37 percent either were unsure of or rejected.

"This immigration deal the Senate is considering is workable," said Sergio Bendixen, the pollster who conducted the survey for New America Media.

The numbers come as some senators are trying to revive the immigration bill. It collapsed two weeks ago when half of the Senate, both Republicans and Democrats, demanded more time to offer amendments, but the bill's backers have struck an agreement to try to revive it.

Under the bill, the estimated 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens in the country would be able to apply for instant legal status and eventually for a Z visa. After about 10 years, if the government meets other goals, the former illegal aliens would be allowed to apply for a green card.

But another poll found that American adults don't support the bill.

In a new Zogby International poll, commissioned by United Press International, 38 percent supported the bill, while 56 percent opposed it.

That may be because opponents have succeeded in making the label of "amnesty" stick — 65 percent of respondents agreed that "this bill represents amnesty for illegal immigrants." That comes despite efforts in the past few months by President Bush and his allies, who have tried to convince voters the bill is not an amnesty.

The poll found little support for Mr. Bush on the issue with just 9 percent approving of his handling of immigration. Congress fared even worse, with just 3 percent approval of its handling.

The Zogby poll, conducted over the Internet June 15 to 18, surveyed 8,300 U.S. adults. The results were weighted to make the sample nationally representative, and the results have a margin of error of 1.1 percentage points.

The Bendixen poll was conducted June 9 to 19 in Spanish. Illegal aliens were identified by Hispanic names and through a question in the poll.

That poll found 70 percent of the illegal aliens surveyed were from Mexico. It also found that 31 percent have lived in the United States fewer than five years, another 33 percent have lived here five to 10 years, 27 percent 10 to 20 years and 9 percent for 20 years or more.

c Shaun Waterman of United Press International contributed to this report.

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