Citizenship for Undocumented Immigrants Gains Traction

PHOTO: This Aug. 15, 2012 file photo shows applicants waiting in Casa de Maryland in Langley Park, Md., to apply for the Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals.

Jose Luis Magana/AP Photo

A majority of Americans now favor a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

About 62 percent favor allowing undocumented immigrants to eventually gain citizenship, up from 50 percent in 2010, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

Interestingly, newfound support from Republicans has helped drive that increase, according to the AP. More than half of Republicans – 53 percent - now favor a path to citizenship, up 22 percentage points from 2010.

It remains to be seen, however, if shifting sentiment among self-identified Republicans carries over to a majority of Republicans in Congress as lawmakers are expected to take up an immigration reform package this year.

A path to citizenship remains one of the most contentious issues of reform. Democrats have called for a path to citizenship to be included in any comprehensive immigration reform package, which has been a traditional sticking point for many Republicans. An outline proposed by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), for example, allows undocumented immigrants to apply for legal status but provides no special pathway to citizenship.

Immigration was one of the issues that dogged the Republican Party among Latino voters in the November election. Now, it appears that a plurality of all voters side with Democrats on the issue of immigration.

Democrats have opened up a 41 percent to 34 percent lead over Republicans as the party most trusted to deal with immigration. That's a significant shift from October 2010, when Republicans led Democrats on that question by a margin of 46 percent to 41 percent.

Republican leaders have increasingly recognized the need for a shift in party stance on the issue.

Former Senator Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) said in December that tone needs to change.

"Good policy is good politics," Coleman said, pointing out that "good policy would be to reach out on immigration."

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