Despite the common misidentification of the GOP as the anti-immigrant party, top Republican candidates for 2016 are coalescing around one important aspect of reform: expansion of legal immigration.
Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Lindsay Graham, and former governors Jeb Bush and Rick Perry have all voiced support for expanding the number of foreign workers in the country. While some have argued that these candidates are at odds with the party’s base, a new report by the Niskanen Center offers a different picture.
GOP voters strongly support legal immigrants. Surveying all national polls from 2001 to 2014 on the question of whether the country should admit more foreign workers, the report found that 60 percent of Republican voters supported increasing the number of work visas.
The pro-immigrant position is the majority position of the American public as well. Americans on average supported foreign workers 56 percent to 34 percent.
The Niskanen Center report, an in-depth review of polling data from the last few decades, provides a clear takeaway for candidates and lawmakers: the American people want Congress to create new opportunities for legal immigrants to work and live in the United States.
The report concludes that Americans’ support for immigration is at a high point. Claims from immigration restrictionists that the public wants to curtail immigration are not rooted in reality.
Support for foreign workers transcends standard political factions, which is why it could have tremendous impact on 2016. An ABC News-Washington Post poll in 2013 found that more than 70 percent of Democrats and Republicans favored “a guest worker program for low-skilled workers” and, separately, “more visas for highly skilled workers.”
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Americans favor less onerous immigration restrictions. High-skilled immigrants dramatically expand the U.S. economy through innovation and entrepreneurship, while forging international business ties in the era of globalization. Low-skilled immigrants fill in labor shortages and help rebuild old communities.
In 2014 Gallup found 63 percent of Americans agree that immigration is good for the country. They recognize that immigration improves our society economically and culturally.
Support for legal immigration is seen across the country from ethnic organizations to homebuilders, and from Silicon Valley startups to farmers. As more top Republican candidates continue to voice support for expansions of the legal system, the path to immigration reform becomes more possible.