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Base Desires - The GOP And Immigration
By Dick Morris


June 29, 2006

A recent poll by Tarrance Associates shows how out-of-touch the House leadership is with rank and file Republican voters. Far from appeasing the "base" by their tough position on immigration, they are alienating the very voters upon whom they most depend.

Tarrance is a Republican polling firm. The poll was sponsored by the conservative/ free-market Manhattan Institute.

The Tarrance survey asked Republicans how they feel about the Senate approach (without identifying it as such), thoroughly describing the broad outlines of the bill passed in that house.

One approach, the survey informed participants, would: "provide resources to greatly increase border security, impose much tougher penalties on employers who hire illegal workers, allow additional foreign workers to come to the United States for a temporary period, and create a system where illegal immigrants could come forward, register, pay a fine, and receive a temporary workers permit, provide temporary workers with a multi-year earned path to citizenship if they get to the end of the line and meet certain requirements like living crime free, learning English, and paying taxes."

After this voluminous description, Republican voters indicated their approval of the proposal by 75 percent to 17 percent. By 39-49, they reject the description of this legislation as "amnesty." By 60-27, that said they'd be more rather than less likely to vote for a candidate who embraced the proposal.

The survey then tested the House bill, also without calling it that. It described an alternative approach would "tighten the borders, put tougher penalties on employers and workers who violate the immigration laws, create an expanded guest worker program that allows people to work here only temporarily, and provides that most current illegal immigrants would never be eligible for citizenship." Republican voters broke even on this legislation, with 47 percent backing it and 46 percent opposing it.

The survey then asked Republicans if they would support "an earned legalization program in which illegal immigrants could earn legal status and eventual citizenship by working, paying taxes, learning English, and waiting their turn behind people in their home countries who are already waiting in line for visas." They backed that proposal, 80-17.

"Creating a program in which illegal immigrants could earn legal status as a foreign worker but would have no possibility of ever becoming citizens." They objected to this approach, the essence of the House legislation, by 25-70.

So when the House Republicans maintain that they are vindicating the views of their base, they are just wrong. Republicans are far more tolerant of illegal immigrants - as long as they earn the tolerance by good conduct - than their political leaders seem to be.

This approach is also self-defeating. If House leaders succeed in typing the GOP as an anti-Hispanic party, they will be guaranteeing that red states like Texas and Florida slip into the blue category by delivering the swelling Hispanic vote to the Democratic Party.

President Bush's approach, on the other hand, is inspired. It creates a well-crafted balance between those who want to control our borders and the bulk of the voters of both parties who want to avoid having a disenfranchised class within our country that toils away with no hope of political participation.


E-mail: Dick Morris at

Dick Morris was an adviser to Bill Clinton for 20 years. Look for Dick's new book "Condi vs. Hillary" available now. Copyright 2005 Dick Morris, All Rights Reserved. Distributed exclusively to subscribers by Cagle, Inc.

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