American public backs immigration deal with DACA and border security

American public backs immigration deal with DACA and border security
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It’s time for Democrats and Republicans to make a real deal on immigration and end almost two decades of ineffective, hypocritical policies. The basic tenets of such a deal have wide public support, except among the extreme wings of each party.

And that is the problem. It’s the reason President Obama, even with 60 Democratic senators, didn’t raise the issue. The vital center on this issue has been ignored because votes in Democratic and Republican caucuses quickly reveal one of the few remaining ideological fissures within the parties. Make no mistake, if there is a good deal, those on the extremes will be unhappy — but America will be the winner.

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First, Americans support the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and their plight. If you came here as a kid with or without your parents, 77 percent in the last Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll (including 66 percent of Republicans) support not just work permits but a path to citizenship. The Department of Homeland Security secretary, Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele Nielsen2,000 asylum seekers return home, decide to stay in Mexico: report Trump taps FEMA official to lead agency Unscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden MORE, said she supported a permanent solution to the problem and that means giving people an opportunity to work, pay taxes and prosper here as full citizens.

Second, Americans support more secure borders, even if that means having a barrier that’s both physical and electronic where appropriate. Fifty-four percent (though only 32 percent of Democrats) support that kind of barrier, and overall 61 percent think our border security is inadequate. Nearly four in five (including most Democrats) reject the idea of open borders, which you may recall that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRoger Stone shares, quickly deletes Instagram photo of federal judge on his case Barack, Michelle Obama expected to refrain from endorsing in 2020 Dem primary: report Why the national emergency? A second term may be Trump’s only shield from an indictment MORE did advocate in one of her speeches to Wall Street banks. (In general, business likes immigration because it brings in more customers and less-expensive labor.)

Overall, 68 percent, including majorities of all parties, oppose a lottery for 50,000 immigrants a year. This is a remarkable policy — why would precious spots to come to America be offered to people, not on the basis of having relatives here or on ability to contribute to society, but randomly? That’s a tough policy to defend in today’s world.

When asked whether preferences to come to America should be made on the basis of people’s ability, education and skills or on the basis of family relations, American voters overwhelmingly, by 79 to 21, choose merit. Voters in general oppose chain migration but I don’t think it would be accurate to say people oppose all preferences for relatives, as people are compassionate about the immigration of close family members like kids and parents. Voters will support limits on this program, but there is a lot of negotiating left on this one to get it right.

Finally, when asked how many legal immigrants should be allowed into America each year, most people — 53 percent — said that 500,000 was a fair number, which of course is far below the existing annual legal immigration of 1 million. This is indicative of America’s general conservatism when it comes to immigration, which President TrumpDonald John TrumpRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports Allies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump States file lawsuit seeking to block Trump's national emergency declaration MORE tapped into, to win the electoral college.

So it is fair to say that Americans believe in compassion for those who are here — especially the “Dreamers” — but also want more merit-based immigration, an end to the lottery and a sensible electronic and physical barrier. In fact, when we asked Americans about a congressional deal like this one, 65 percent said this is a package of reforms that they would favor.

But let’s face it — all of the Democratic senators likely running for president, with the exception of Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSchiff: Evidence of collusion between Trump campaign, Russia 'pretty compelling' The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers scramble as shutdown deadline nears Steel lobby's PR blitz can't paper over damaging effects of tariffs MORE (D-Va.), voted to keep the government shut down, a position opposed by 58 percent of America but favored by the Democratic base and immigration groups. The implication is that, on the Democratic side, presidential politics will put Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats National emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win House Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration MORE (D-N.Y.) in the hot seat.

In the past, Democrats generally lined up behind border security and if they could get everything they want — and the American people want — including a path to citizenship on DACA, their goal should be to negotiate hard on chain migration and pretty much give Trump what he wants on the lottery and the barrier. But “The Wall” has become a symbol of resistance to Trump, and so most Democratic voters oppose it, creating a sticking point in the Democratic caucus that Schumer will again have to overrule and that Trump will have to clarify is part physical, part electronic.

On the Republican side, the anti-amnesty and Ann Coulter crowd will also have to accept a compromise here, especially in the more conservative House. They should not let this issue devolve into another health care fight that leaves in place the unworkable status quo.

The Constitution introduced checks and balances so that no one faction could get its way, and this is just the kind of issue the Founders envisioned would be settled through compromise. President Trump has outlined four pillars of a deal, each of which has a lot of support. The question is whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Trump should beware the 'clawback' Congress Juan Williams: America needs radical solutions MORE (R-Ky.) and Schumer can tame the far-right and far-left elements of their caucuses and bring home the kind of balanced reform that the DACA recipients need and the American public supports.

Mark Penn is chairman of the Harris Poll and was pollster and senior adviser to Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonHarris off to best start among Dems in race, say strategists, donors For 2020, Democrats are lookin’ for somebody to love A year since Parkland: we have a solution MORE and Hillary Clinton from 1995 to 2008.