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May 2000, Volume 7, Number 5

Polls and Politics

Public opinion on immigration has become more favorable. A 1999 Gallup poll found that 44 percent of respondents wanted to reduce immigration, down from 65 percent in 1995. In 1994, 31 percent of Americans said new immigrants strengthen the country, while 63 percent said they were a burden. In 1999, the public was more evenly split, with 46 percent considering immigrants a source of strength and 44 percent considering them a burden.

A March 2000 California poll found that 54 percent of respondents said they consider immigrants a benefit, compared to 34 percent who consider them a burden. Only two percent of the public consider immigration an important issue; 20 percent said so two years earlier.

Across the US, about 8.3 million Hispanics are registered to vote in November 2000, up from 5.1 million in 1994. In California, the Hispanic share of the vote rose from four percent in 1990 to an expected 13 percent in 2000.

In a Los Angeles speech, Texas Gov. George W. Bush said he rejects "the politics of pitting one group against the other.... Make no mistake about it: There are people in this country who would like to build walls between Mexico and America. And make no mistake about it, a President George (W.) Bush will work to tear those walls down.... Family values do not stop at the Rio Grande River. If you're a mother or dad . . . and you can't find work close to home . . . and you're worth your salt, you're coming. You're coming to feed your family."

Bush called for a review of border policy effectiveness, and said economic growth in Mexico would be the best border control: "Not only should we be thinking about how to grow our own economy internally, but we need to be...bold and aggressive enough, and wise enough, to figure out how to help our neighbors grow their economy as well." In late April, Bush traveled to Mexico and said: "In the past there have been walls of divide between Mexico and the United States. We must, we must be committed to raise the bridges of trade and friendship and freedom."

Abraham. U.S. Senator Spencer Abraham (R-MI), chair of the Senate Immigration Subcommittee, is up for re-election, and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) ran ads accusing Abraham of hurting US workers because he supports increasing the number of visas available for foreign professionals under the H-1B program. Former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson resigned from FAIR, saying the ads attacking Abraham were unfair. Abraham has enlisted supporters to counter the ads; Texas Gov. George W. Bush said: "What I like about Sen. Abraham is he stands up to those who want to bash the newly arrived in America."

Abraham, the grandson of Lebanese immigrants, is the first person elected to the US Senate who had never before run for any public office.

Gebe Martinez, "Abraham forced to shift focus because of pounding from anti-immigration group," Detroit News, April 24, 2000.