WASHINGTON -- If undocumented young people eventually get the chance to become citizens, it may not be as big a boon for the Democratic party as some expect, according to a survey of young, undocumented immigrants released on Tuesday.
That's not to say members of this group, known as Dreamers, don't often prefer the Democratic Party. But only half of respondents considered themselves Democrats, compared to 45 percent who identified as independents or "other" -- giving an opening for GOP candidates to win them over.
The survey, commissioned by immigrant rights groups Unbound Philanthropy and United We Dream, polled nearly 1,500 undocumented immigrants between the ages of 18 and 35, more than 90 percent of whom are allowed to remain in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. The survey is the largest taken of Dreamers, although its organizers noted that caution should be taken not to generalize when interpreting the results.
As of now, Dreamers can't vote. But by and large, granting citizenship to undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children is less controversial than it was even a few years ago, meaning that even if comprehensive immigration reform fails, Dreamers could still eventually get their chance at legal status. More than 550,000 of them have already been granted the ability to stay in the U.S. for two years or more and work legally, cementing them further into communities and making their deportation more unlikely.
Both parties stand to gain or lose Dreamers' support through their actions on immigration reform, which is a major issue of concern for undocumented immigrants. Nearly 70 percent of Dreamers said they could not support the GOP or its candidates if reform was not passed, while only about 40 percent said the same about Democrats.
Democrats do stand to lose the support -- or at least enthusiasm -- of many Dreamers, however, if deportations continue at high rates, according to the poll. Nearly three quarters of respondents who identify as Democrats agreed with the statement, "whether I support the Democratic Party in the future depends on whether they work to address the issue of the separation of families because of deportation."
The poll of Dreamers released also looked at the impact of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which started in 2012. The survey indicates that gaining deferred action through the program has significantly improved Dreamers' lives -- 23 percent said they returned to school, and 70 percent said they got either their first job or a new job after being granted deferred action to remain in the country.