By Alexander Bolton - 08/15/13 09:23 AM EDT
A new poll shows that a large majority of likely voters nationwide do not support an influx of new foreign workers, complicating the prospects of immigration reform in the House.
Opponents of the sweeping immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in June are focused on the nation’s 7.4 percent unemployment rate as a potential stumbling block for the legislation.
Nearly 60 percent of likely voters also oppose the Senate bill’s proposal to increase the number of green cards for new immigrants to 20 million over the next decade, according to the poll. Twenty-eight percent of respondents supported such an increase.
Three-quarters of those surveyed said there are more than enough unemployed Americans with lower levels of education to fill the jobs that would go to millions of new immigrants under the Senate bill. Only 17 percent said foreign workers are needed to fill labor shortages.
Pulse Opinion Research conducted the poll for NumbersUSA by surveying 1,000 likely voters across the nation.
It showed that a solid majority of voters are worried about the impact immigration reform, which could put millions of illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship and create large guest-workers programs, will have on the labor market.
When asked what employers should do if they have trouble finding U.S. citizens to fill various jobs, 71 percent said they should raise pay levels to attract more candidates. Only 10 percent said employers should bring in immigrant workers to keep costs down.
“The public, while having some sympathy for some amnesty under all those very tough conditions, isn’t interested at all in increasing immigration and increasing the level of foreign workers,” said Roy Beck, the executive director of NumbersUSA.
“The business community has put hundreds of millions of dollars into trying to get these immigration increases through because it really goes against the basic thoughts and nature of the American voters,” he added.
Beck argued that many polls to date have glossed over the question of whether U.S. citizens should face increased competition from immigrant workers. Instead, other surveys have emphasized the question of what to do with the estimated 11 million people already living in the country illegally.
While likely voters are somewhat sympathetic to illegal immigrants living in their communities, they are not happy about the prospect of bringing in millions of new foreign workers to compete for jobs.
The Senate immigration debate focused largely on the question of border security. Many Republicans such as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Republican Whip John Cornyn (Texas) opposed the bill because it did not guarantee full operational control of the U.S.-Mexico border before granting legal status to millions of illegal immigrants.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a leading critic of the Senate bill, often raised the issue of its impact on the U.S. labor force but his arguments were ignored by Republicans and Democrats alike.
Beck believes the new data will influence the debate in the House this fall.
“Once you frame the issue as the American worker versus bringing in foreign workers there seems to be no question where the Americans are,” he said.
Beck noted the biggest predictor of how likely voters respond to questions about immigration reform is party affiliation. He said self-identified Republicans have significantly higher levels of opposition to the proposals contained in the Senate-passed bill.
“The Republican voters are far less influenced by their national party leaders and they are definitely not influenced by business lobbies,” he said.
Beck said members of NumbersUSA have attended 140 town-hall meetings during the August recess to press lawmakers against supporting immigration reform proposals.
His group does not want the House to consider any reform bills out of fear they could be used as legislative vehicles to advance the core proposals of the Senate legislation.
NumbersUSA scored a victory last month when House GOP leaders did not bring any immigration reform bills to the floor, postponing action until after Labor Day.
Proponents of immigration reform have missed an important voice in the debate this month as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a crucial liaison to conservative activists, has focused instead on his push to defund ObamaCare.
Rubio has stated repeatedly, however, that he remains fully committed to the Senate bill, which he helped draft.