By Esther Yu-Hsi Lee
January 28, 2016
Republican presidential candidates often promise that once they’re made president, they will do away with President Obama’s executive action to show leniency towards some undocumented immigrants. But they may want to take note that many of their constituents disagree. That’s according to the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll, which found that a majority of Americans support Obama’s plan to allow certain undocumented immigrants to stay in the country legally.
The poll found that 61 percent of Americans — including 42 percent of Republicans — would support an immigration plan granting temporary deportation reprieve and work authorization for undocumented immigrants, particularly “when it is described in general terms without using Obama’s name,” Reuters reported. When the same plan was identified as an executive action taken by Obama, support fell 7 percent, with only 31 percent of Republicans supporting such a plan. The inverse was true for Democrats, whose support for the plan went up 2 percent once Obama’s name was attached to it.
That two-part plan, formally announced in November 2014 as the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Legal Residents (DAPA) and a similar program targeted at younger undocumented immigrants, was Obama’s signature executive action on immigration during a time of congressional inaction on a permanent bill. DAPA and its sister program built upon a previous 2012 initiative, known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, to extend smilar benefits for so-called DREAMers who came to the country as children.
But soon after Obama announced the DAPA program, a group of Republican-led states and lawmakers filed suit to challenge the president’s authority to take action for upwards of four million immigrants. A Texas judge issued an injunction last year, blocking the government from implementing the DAPA and the updated DACA program. The Supreme Court recently decided to take up the case, with a decision likely set for June.
The online poll of 1,200 respondents was taken in the week following the Supreme Court decision.
It may be unsurprising that support dropped when the plan was attached to Obama’s name. This partisan divide was observed last year when a similar Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) survey found that 76 percent of respondents, including 67 percent of Republicans, support the specifics of Obama’s executive action when it’s not linked to his name. With Obama’s name attached, however, support dropped to 51 percent. (Similarly, the “Obama Effect” has also been observed in health care policy, with polls showing that more Americans oppose the Affordable Care Act when it’s linked to his name.)
Although poll after poll indicates Republicans broadly support immigration legislation that would provide some pathway for undocumented immigrants to contribute more to American society, many Republican candidates are still insistent about doing away with Obama’s executive action.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said in November 2015 that he would eventually let the DACA program end. When questioned about what he would do with the DACA program, Donald Trump broadly said that undocumented immigrants “have to go.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) recently told a DACA recipient that he would deport people like her, building on a previous statement about making it a “top priority” to end the initiatives. And former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R) called the initiatives “unconstitutional” in June 2015 and threatened to undo the programs in April 2015.
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