Poll: Slim majority back path to citizenship for illegal immigrants

A new poll shows most Americans support allowing illegal immigrants in the country to stay, with the opportunity to become citizens.

Fifty-one percent in a CBS News poll released Monday say illegal immigrants already in the U.S. should be able to remain in the country and apply for citizenship. Twenty percent say that illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the country under a guest-worker program, with 24 percent saying they should leave the U.S.

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The new poll comes amid growing momentum for immigration reform. On Monday, a bipartisan group of senators unveiled a framework including granting illegal immigrants temporary legal status, creating a pathway for citizenship, increasing the number of skilled workers and establishing guest-worker and employer verification programs.

President Obama, who has said that immigration reform is one of his second-term priorities, will also lay out proposals during an address Tuesday in Las Vegas. 

But while immigration reform proponents believe that the political landscape is more favorable for a deal, their efforts will face strong opposition from many GOP lawmakers who oppose citizenship measures they see as “amnesty.” 

The poll shows a strong split between Democrats and Republicans, with 66 percent of Democrats backing a path to citizenship compared to 35 percent of GOP voters who support that approach. Forty-seven percent of independents back allowing illegal immigrants to apply for citizenship. 

But the support for citizenship opportunities for illegal immigrants has risen over time. In the same poll taken in April 2010, 43 percent said illegal immigrants should be allowed to remain in the U.S. and apply for citizenship.

The CBS News poll was conducted from Jan. 24 to 27 and has a 3-point margin of error.

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