More undocumented immigrants would seek citizenship now than in 1986

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    Thousands rallied outside the U.S. Capitol building, calling on Congress to approve an immigration reform. A new poll released Monday found a majority of undocumented immigrants would seek citizenship if given the chance. (Twitter/America's Voice)

    Thousands rallied outside the U.S. Capitol building, calling on Congress to approve an immigration reform. A new poll released Monday found a majority of undocumented immigrants would seek citizenship if given the chance. (Twitter/America’s Voice)

    Latino Decisions pollster Matt Barreto said there is evidence to suggest more undocumented immigrants would apply to become U.S. citizens now than in 1986 when Congress approved an immigration reform bill.

    Several politicians, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, have pointed out that only about half of those who qualified for U.S. citizenship under the immigration reform of 1986 actually applied.

    But Barreto said a lot has changed since that year, starting with the growing desire among undocumented immigrants to become U.S. citizens. He pointed to a new Latino Decisions poll released Monday that found 87 percent of undocumented immigrants said they would apply to become U.S. citizens if given the opportunity.

    Barreto suggested the growing power of the Latino vote might be influencing more undocumented immigrants—most of whom are Latinos—to want to become U.S. citizens and vote.

    “Right now you see more discussions about the importance of Latinos voting. You didn’t have that in the 1980s,” he added.

    Lia Parada, legislative director with America’s Voice, said she too believes more undocumented immigrants would seek a path to citizenship this time around.

    She also warned, “What we have to be careful of are obstacles that would limit the ability of prospective citizens to naturalize such as a hefty fee or fine that would keep a family of four from becoming U.S. citizens.”

    Poll paints portrait of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.

    The Latino Decisions poll, conducted on behalf of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund and America’s Voice Education Fund, also found that undocumented immigrants have deep roots in the U.S. and a strong connection to U.S. citizens.

    Among the major poll findings: 68 percent have been living in the U.S. more than a decade; 85 percent of undocumented immigrants have at least one family member who is a U.S. citizen; and 77 percent came to the U.S. seeking better economic opportunities or a better life for their family.

    Additionally, the Latino Decisions poll found that more than two-thirds of the undocumented immigrants surveyed said they are optimistic and hopeful about the chances of an immigration reform bill passing this year.

    Barreto said the intent of the poll is to “paint a demographic and social portrait of the undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.”

    Similarly, Parada said the Latino decisions poll “answers the question of who the undocumented are.”

    “We know that they are homeowners, have families and have deep ties to America and are looking forward to the ability to get on a path to citizenship,” she told VOXXI.

    “Knowing who the undocumented are means that members of Congress will be able to assess whether an immigration reform bill will really fix our broken immigration system once and for all by putting the 11 million undocumented on a road to citizenship,” she added.

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