WASHINGTON -- Nearly two-thirds of Latino voters support allowing same-sex couples equal immigration rights, according to a poll released Friday, contradicting the often-repeated line that those voters are more socially conservative than average.
The poll was conducted by polling firm Latino Decisions for the group Immigration Equality, which advocates for same-sex couples to be included in reform. Under current law, same-sex couples do not have the same immigration rights as heterosexual ones. An American can't petition for legal status for their same-sex partner because even legal marriages are not recognized at the federal level under the Defense of Marriage Act.
When asked whether same-sex partners should be allowed to petition for legal residency for a spouse, 64 percent of Latino voters said they would support such a policy, while 24 percent said they would oppose it. A strong majority -- 92 percent -- of those who support inclusion in immigration law said it was important that it be made part of reform.
Most Latinos who self-identified as Catholic or evangelical also supported provisions for same-sex couples. For Catholics, views were particularly pronounced when the survey asked about same-sex binational couples who were raising a U.S. citizen child. While 62 percent of Latino voters overall said it was "very important" that those children be able to keep both parents in the U.S., the ratio went up to 70 percent among Catholics.
Exit polling in November found that a majority of Latino voters -- 59 percent -- support state recognition of same-sex marriages, well above the 48 percent of voters overall who supported legalizing gay marriage in their state.
A HuffPost/YouGov poll released Jan. 31 found that 45 percent of Americans support granting the same immigration rights to same-sex couples, while 38 percent are opposed and 17 percent said they are not sure.
But including same-sex couples in immigration reform will be politically difficult. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), two members of the Senate "gang of eight" working on immigration reform, have both said it would be a non-starter.
"Which is more important: LGBT or border security?" McCain said at a Jan. 30 event hosted by Politico. "I'll tell you what my priorities are. If you're going to load it up with social issues, that is the best way to derail it, in my view."
The Latino Decisions poll was conducted nationwide among 500 U.S. citizen Latinos who are registered to vote. The margin of error is +/- 4.4 percent.
"Gang Of Eight"
A <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/28/immigration-reform-framework_n_2566494.html?1359387491">bipartisan group of senators</a> have come together to address the issue of immigration reform. The group consists of four members of each party -- Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado, plus Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida, John McCain of Arizona and Jeff Flake of Arizona. Their framework was announced Monday.
Pathway To Citizenship
A <a href="http://www.docstoc.com/docs/142894316/Bipartisan-immigration-plan">"tough but fair" </a> road to citizenship is the main tenet of the bipartisan immigrant plan. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is the most significant supporter of this idea, giving hope to those who doubt Republicans will support the plan.
The New Process
The new process of obtaining citizenship would be just that -- a process. Probationary citizens would be required to pass an additional background check, learn English, pay taxes and show that they have a history of employment to apply for permanent residence and a green card. Undocumented immigrants will receive green cards after all probationary citizens have been processed, ensuring that documented immigrants are addressed first. Separate processes would be designed for young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children and agricultural workers.
Enforcement, Then Green Cards
The first goal, before any green cards are handed out, is to "demonstrate our commitment to securing our borders and combating visa overstays," the senators say in their framework.
Enhance Border Security And Drones
Emphasizing enforcement measures, the framework calls for increased boarder control, including more border agents and aerial surveillance and drones. A new system would be added to ensure visa stays are being adhered to, along with a commission of border lawmakers to aid legislation.
Increase Employment Verification
The senators have proposed to create an "effective employment verification system" that would help prevent identity theft while allowing employers to feel secure in hiring documented immigrants.
No Benefits For Probationary Immigrants
Immigrants who are in the probationary category would not be eligible for federal benefits in the senators' framework. This addresses the concern that public benefits, particularly health-related ones, are being spent on undocumented immigrants.
An Easier Path For 'The Best And Brightest'
The framework recognizes that a different sort of process would be needed for "the best and brightest," including highly-skilled workers and those with higher education. This has been previously addressed in the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/28/stem-act-white-house-immigration_n_2207279.html">STEM Act </a> which was ultimately vetoed by the White House.