America’s got a fee-vah and the only prescription is … more amnesty?

Well, maybe not. Note the phrasing at the end:


No one thinks mass deportation is feasible. Hardly anyone’s suggesting it anymore. The consensus position among alleged “hardliners” these days is simply to nail down measurable improvements in policing for illegal immigration, especially measures like E-Verify aimed at deterring illegals who’ve already made it past the border, as a prerequisite to the eventual legalization that everyone knows is coming. The goal at this point is to prevent future amnesties, not derail the one whose headlights are right in front of us. As such, tacking on deportation to a question like this is like tacking on something to the legalization part about offering illegals citizenship “immediately, no questions asked.” No one’s suggesting that either, but I guarantee you’ll see the numbers for legalization dip if you toss that red herring out there. If anything, the noteworthy bit in the data above is the trendline: There was a sharp turnaround between 2011 and 2012, probably because the contrast between the candidates’ positions in the election that year — Obama de facto legalizing DREAMers by executive rule versus Romney calling for self-deportation of illegals — hardened the issue in partisan terms.

The interesting numbers in the CNN poll don’t come from the dopey deportation question, they come from the follow-up. People were asked whether they support legalizing illegals with a path to citizenship or legalizing them with a permanent bar to citizenship. That’s a red herring too insofar as Boehner’s principles don’t prohibit citizenship for illegals; all they say is that there’ll be no specially created path. Illegals might (and surely will) still be eligible for the citizenship process under existing law. But the question is valuable anyway, I think, because it gives you a glimpse at how the GOP’s big legalization sellout, which is designed to dazzle voters with a show of moderation, will be received once Democrats start demagoing the hell out of it. Result: The public overwhelmingly supports legalization with eventual citizenship, 81/17, and overwhelmingly opposes legalization that prohibits citizenship, 35/62. (Weird footnote: The 18-34 group shows the highest level of support in both questions among age demographics.) If the GOP’s going to embrace amnesty, they’d better swallow hard and start emphasizing that citizenship is in the cards for illegals under their plan, no matter how much that might irritate their base. No sense selling out if you’re not going to get a pat on the head for it from your target audience.

Since we’re talking the GOP and immigration politics, here’s another juicy poll out today. Beltway Republicans have warned border hawks forever that they should emulate Texas Republicans on this issue; both Dubya and Rick Perry have had fabulous electoral success in the state by taking a milder view of immigration reform than the conservative base. If you want to turn the electoral tide nationally among Latino voters, the Texas model is the one to follow. Here’s what Gallup found when they compared Latinos in Texas to Latinos nationwide:


Nationally, Latinos split 51/21 between Democrats and Republicans; in Texas, it’s 46/27, although as you can see, the Texas GOP has gained a few points over the past five years while the national party has actually lost ground slightly. No doubt dour views among Latinos of the national GOP have hurt the Texas state party too. There’s only so much Bush and Perry can do on their own. The Texas numbers would doubtless be higher if the national party’s image improved. But how much higher? The great conundrum in deciding whether to sell out on amnesty in Congress is gauging what sort of increase the GOP can expect over, say, the next 20 years in its share of the Latino vote. What’s their ceiling, realistically? 45 percent? 40? 35? Texas, a state governed by immigration-friendly Republicans for nearly 20 years, is a byword for “economic success” in America at this point — and the GOP still can’t do better than 27 percent among Latinos there? That suggests a low vote-share ceiling, not a high one.