Majority of Americans back immigration actions GOP is trying to kill

Public wants Obama's actions to stand, but conservatives remain intent on overturning them

Published January 15, 2015 3:00PM (EST)

Marsha Blackburn, Ted Cruz           (AP/Chris Usher/Reuters/Lucas Jackson)
Marsha Blackburn, Ted Cruz (AP/Chris Usher/Reuters/Lucas Jackson)

By substantial margins, Americans support the substance of President Obama's executive actions on immigration and oppose Republican efforts to roll them back, according to a new CBS poll.

Two months ago, Obama announced that he would exercise his executive authority to spare up to 5 million unauthorized immigrants from deportation, provided they could demonstrate family ties and pass a background check. In the CBS poll, 62 percent of respondents indicated they supported allowing unauthorized immigrants to remain in the U.S. temporarily and apply for work permits if they met such requirements.

Americans were far more divided on the question of whether Obama's actions constitute a proper use of his authority. A slight plurality of respondents -- 48 percent -- said Obama acted within his purview as chief executive, while 46 percent said he did not.

Presidents have historically exercised executive discretion on deportations, as when GOP Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush granted deportation reprieves to some unauthorized immigrants.

While Americans split on the question of whether Obama acted within his authority, a substantial majority -- 55 percent -- said that his actions should be allowed to stand. Only 40 percent said that Congress should scuttle the president's policy.

But Republicans are trying to do precisely that. On Wednesday, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives voted 236 to 191 to pass a Department of Homeland Security funding bill which overturns Obama's actions. The legislation, which threatens to cause a partial government shutdown when DHS funding expires next month, also contained an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), ending the administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Under the program, which Obama unveiled in 2012, those illegally brought to the U.S. as minors can apply for legal status. A small faction of Republicans opposed Blackburn's amendment, with one House GOPer calling it "mean-spirited," but their rebellion failed to prevent the amendment's approval.

The GOP's scorched-earth opposition to Obama's immigration policy threatens to further erode the party's already dismal standing among Latino voters, who backed Obama over his GOP opponents by 36 and 44 percentage points in 2008 and 2012, respectively. An overwhelming majority of Latinos support his immigration actions, with a Latino Decisions poll conducted in November finding that 89 percent of Latinos -- including 76 percent of Latino Republicans -- backed the actions.

By Luke Brinker

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