WASHINGTON - An overwhelming majority of American voters believe undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children should be allowed to remain in the country and become citizens, according to a new Qunnipiac University poll.
Eighty-two percent of voters, including nearly 70 percent of Republicans, believe the so-called “Dreamer” immigrants should be able to stay and apply for citizenship. Only 6 percent felt they should be permitted to remain but not become citizens. Ten percent of the respondents said dreamers should be forced to leave the U.S.
By a 72-to-19-percent margin, voters agreed with U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to work with Democratic lawmakers on legislation to protect Dreamers. But voters were opposed 57-to-37 percent on including funds in the bill to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.
On the question of whether to build a wall on the border, 57-percent opposed it compared to 37-percent who favored it.
Dreamers is a reference to children who qualify for the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors). First introduced in 2001, the act was designed to provide a pathway to children who were brought to the U.S. without documentation.
Republicans reveal bill Monday
After Congress failed to approve the measure in 2010, then-U.S. President Barack Obama launched a temporary program that enabled Dreamers to undergo background checks and apply for work permits. The program is called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, and allows work permits and other protections for some 800,000 people.
On Monday, conservative Republicans in Congress unveiled a bill that includes their ideas about the eventual fate of Dreamers when DACA expires in March. The measure, co-sponsored by Senators Thom Tillis and James Lankford, calls for tougher restrictions on Dreamers than proposed by Democrats.
Drafted in response to Trump's move to end the DACA program, the bill would prohibit Dreamers from applying for citizenship for at least 15 years and would cover fewer people than the Democratic proposal.
Path to citizenship
Trump had previously expressed support for the Democratic bill, but later said he wanted to include provisions for additional border security measures.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi have said they discussed in a meeting with Trump the path to citizenship for Dreamers after eight years.
Democrats, meanwhile, are waiting for the Trump administration to disclose a list of principles to guide Dreamer legislation.