- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 26, 2006

President Bush’s signing of a bill yesterday authorizing 700 miles of new security fencing along the U.S. southern border marks what appears to be the final stage of the Republicans’ campaign strategy. Fortunately for them, it looks like it could be a winning one.

A recent survey conducted by the Center for Immigration Studies shows what we’ve expected all along: That when the immigration debate is presented to voters with unbiased language and statistics, Americans favor the conservative case for better border security, better interior enforcement, limited increases in the current levels of legal immigration and no amnesty.

Central to the poll’s findings, respondents placed immigration third on their list of most important issues, with only the Iraq war/terrorism and health-care costs taking greater precedence. Of likely voters nationally, the survey found, 53 percent said immigration was either their most important issue or one of their top three. Only 8 percent said it was not important at all.

This news is not necessarily good for Republicans, who’ve spent the last year flogging immigration only to accomplish very little. But the poll also found that voters favored the House-passed enforcement-first bill over the Senate’s various amnesty and guest-worker proposals. Using fair language to describe the House vs. Senate bills, 67 percent of voters favored the House language of stricter enforcement, tougher employer sanctions and strengthening America’s borders. Forty-eight percent (a plurality) opposed a guest-worker program when described as admitting as many as 8 million immigrants, as a Senate bill proposed. Most significantly, 61 percent opposed amnesty for the 10 million illegal aliens currently living in the Unites States — again, using language in the Senate bill.

These numbers confirm previous polling done by Zogby and Rasmussen, which found that 64 percent preferred the House bill over the Senate and 67 percent preferred stricter enforcement of current laws, respectively. The balance of opinion is clearly in the Republicans’ favor.

What this says to us is that Republicans need not rely solely on the security-fence bill to bolster their immigration credentials. Much like the problem of fixing the country’s immigration crisis, the security-fence bill is a good place to start. But Republicans must also stress to voters how they were the party of stricter enforcement and zero amnesty. Yes, some Senate Republicans did sign on to the Democrats’ amnesty bill, but 59 percent of them did not. Highlighting Democratic obstructionism in these last two weeks would certainly resonate with the majority of Americans who favor the conservative approach.

Lastly, conservatives who are upset with this Republican-controlled Congress should ask themselves if their immigration concerns would be better addressed with a Democratic-controlled House or Senate. The answer is an emphatic no.


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