Sixty-six percent of Wyomingites want to see an immigration reform bill that includes a tough but fair path to citizenship, according to a recent poll paid for by three reform advocates: Republicans for Immigration Reform, Alliance for Citizenship and Partnership for a New American Economy.
Harper Polling conducted the telephone survey across 29 states whose political climates ranged from strong blue and red states to moderate. The legislation was described in accurate but favorable terms for reform, saying the bill would help “secure our borders” and help keep illegal immigrants out of the country.
Wyoming’s sample size was 514 participants, equating to about 2 percent of Wyoming’s voting population. Thirty-nine percent of participants were Republican, 29 percent Democrat and 33 percent independent.
“This poll shows that Wyoming voters think the bipartisan immigration reform compromise strikes the right balance between securing our borders, powering our economy and treating both immigrants and Americans fairly,” said Jeremy Robbins, director of Partnership for a New American Economy. “Like voters all over the country, Wyoming voters think that now is the time to act to reform our broken immigration system.”
Despite a recent radio ad campaign in Cheyenne and Casper that bad-mouthed the reform initiative, 23 percent of people polled “strongly” support the bipartisan immigration reform legislation working its way through the U.S. Senate. Forty-eight percent of people polled “somewhat” support the bill sponsored by the Senate’s so-called Gang of Eight who are leading the charge in passing an immigration bill.
Wyoming Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso both voted no when the bill underwent it first vote in the Senate last week.
Sixty-nine percent of the poll’s participants said that they would “strongly” or “somewhat” urge their members of Congress to vote for the current immigration bill. Ten percent of participants would be “strongly” opposed to urging their members to vote in favor of the legislation.
The poll is “suspect,” Enzi spokesman Daniel Head said in a statement to the Star-Tribune.
The Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill gives everyone something to disagree with, Enzi said in a media release issued last week after the Senate agreed to move forward on the immigration bill by a vote of 84-15. The House Judiciary Committee will take its first reading of the bill Tuesday.
Enzi opposes giving amnesty to illegal immigrants living in the country, according to the release. He wants strong border enforcement, security and guest worker programs that work, “from sheep herding to high tech engineers.”
“Senator Enzi doesn’t see which way the wind is blowing and then decide how to vote,” Head said. “He does what he thinks is best for the state. He wants immigration reform, too, but there are too many problems with the 1,000-page bill that is before the Senate.”
Barrasso spokeswoman Laura Mengelkamp said the senator doesn’t pay attention to polls.
“Senator Barrasso supports reforming our broken immigration system and securing our borders,” Mengelkamp said. “When he travels across Wyoming and reads his mail in Washington, he hears directly from constituents who have serious concerns about the Senate bill. Instead of focusing on polls from outside groups, he is going to continue to talk to people in the state.”
There was an average of 10,984 immigrants who made up the workforce in Wyoming between 2007 and 2011, according to the U.S Census Bureau. Illegal immigrants comprised less than 1.5 percent of the workforce, according to a report from the Pew Hispanic Center.
There is ample evidence that there is a strong economic benefit to immigration reform at all sectors of the economy, Robbins said. An update to the nation’s immigration policies would be a boon for Wyoming and the entire country, he said.
If all unauthorized immigrants were removed from Wyoming, the state would lose $194.3 million in economic activity, $86.3 million in gross state product and approximately 1,260 jobs, even accounting for adequate market adjustment time, according to a 2008 report by the Perryman Group, a financial and economic analysis firm in Texas. The Greater Houston Partnership, an economic development group and pro-business advocacy group, paid for the report.