Western voters show mixed feelings on immigration
August 25, 2008
LAS VEGAS Nevadans and voters in five other Western states support efforts to curb illegal Mexico-U.S. immigration, but also say they prefer that illegal immigrants already in the country have a chance to apply for legal status rather than be deported, a new regional poll said.In Nevada, 76 percent of those polled said they support efforts including completing a border fence and penalizing employers who hire illegal immigrants, the newspaper poll said. Regionally, 71 percent of voters said they supported such efforts.The telephone poll of 400 likely voters each in the states of Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming aimed to gauge Westerners feelings about issues including immigration, climate change and gun control.The survey was commissioned jointly by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Denver Post and the Salt Lake Tribune, and was conducted Aug. 13-15 by Washington, D.C.-based Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc.Regionally, 53 percent favored the legal status approach, compared with 38 percent who favored deportation. In Nevada, 48 percent said illegal immigrants should have a shot at legalization, while 42 percent said they should be deported.The regional results have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points. Individual state results have a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.Its a mixed bag with immigration, said pollster Brad Coker, Mason-Dixon managing partner. People want border security and to have laws enforced, but they also understand there are people here working who are probably good for the economy.Pollsters also asked whether respondents felt that immigrants from Mexico and other Latin America countries had a positive or negative effect on life in the Western U.S. Results were mixed regionally. In Nevada, 31 percent chose positive, and 47 percent said negative.Andres Ramirez, vice president of Hispanic programs at NDN, a Washington, D.C.-based Democratic think tank and advocacy organization, said such sentiments point to a misunderstanding about the role that immigrants play in America.In a moment where the average American is suffering in this economic downturn, people are always looking for a cause to point to, he said.Nevada Assemblyman Ty Cobb, R-Reno, called the question unfair because it lumped together all immigrants from the region, instead of singling out illegal immigrants.I have a feeling people were confused by that, he said. Were all immigrants. No ones saying we dont appreciate people who take time to do it the right way.Cobb is pursuing a bill for the 2009 Nevada Legislature that would ban illegal immigrants from receiving state assistance or getting Nevada drivers licenses.