True or false: Few topics create as much strife among Republicans as immigration policy? Given the heated debates and hot takes we’ve been reading since President Donald Trump announced his desire to build a border wall, while at the same time saying he is “open” to a path to citizenship for “Dreamers,” you’d assume the answer is “true.” In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
According to a new national poll from New American Economy and TargetPoint Consulting, the majority of Republicans are on the same page when it comes to a border security and Dreamer protection deal. So now we must ask Congress, what are they waiting for?
The new poll found that 80 percent of Republican and conservative voters, and 86 percent of Trump’s base, support a deal in Congress that would increase border security in exchange for protecting Dreamers, those immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. Additionally, 88 percent of young conservative voters — the 18- to 34-year-olds who are our party’s future — support citizenship for Dreamers. Among this demographic, 79 percent support a compromise that would increase border security in exchange for protecting Dreamers.
In fact, among a number of other key subgroups important to the GOP, including college-educated women, faith voters, and lower-income conservative and Republican voters, support for this deal never dips below 75 percent. Clearly, the people have spoken.
As a graduate student at the University of Maine and a political science instructor at Unity College, I have witnessed how resilient the Dreamers are. Like them, I am “from away.” It’s not easy to be an outsider in Maine. And yet these young people arrive at those campuses eager to learn, despite the uncertainty about their legal status. Will they be deported before they have the chance to graduate? Will they be able to work in their chosen fields after so many years of hard work and paying thousands of dollars in tuition? Or will they lose their legal status and be forced to hide in the shadows?
Nationally, more than 81 percent of the Dreamers are high school graduates and have taken at least one college course. They hold nearly $17 billion in spending power. And they fill crucial roles in the American workforce, including accounting, nursing and teaching. In a state like Maine, where the native population is declining and the young people are leaving, Dreamers could provide a needed boost to the economy and the local tax base.
It’s in our best interests to protect them.
Of course, we need to protect our borders, too. But a deal to secure our borders in exchange for protecting Dreamers is precisely what the vast majority of Republicans want.
If you’re still not convinced, consider that just 12 percent of Republican voters would support a different candidate in the midterm primaries if their representative voted “yes” on a deal to secure our border and protect Dreamers. Those people are the outliers, not our party’s mainstream.
Delaina Toothman is a political historian and president of the Maine Federation of Republican Women.
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