Most U.S. Republican voters support giving illegal immigrants a chance to earn legal status even as border controls are tightened -- and they think it should happen this year, a poll released Thursday said.
The poll, commissioned by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, found that 82 per cent of likely Republican voters supported tightening the borders and imposing tougher penalties on illegal immigrants and employers who hire them.
It said about 80 percent of Republicans support an earned legalization program to give immigrants legal status. The majority, 68 percent, also oppose deportation for illegal immigrants, the poll said.
"There is a real desire for the majority of Republicans to find a solution for this problem," Brian Nienaber, vice-president of The Tarrance Group, which conducted the research, told reporters.
About 72 per cent of the Republicans surveyed said it was important to solve the problem of illegal immigration this year, according to the poll.
Disagreement at the top
President Bush, a Republican, is pushing for a broad bill along the lines of proposals that would tighten security at the border and give a path to citizenship for most of the more than 11 million illegal immigrants who live in the United States.
But the House and Senate, both under Republican control, have passed competing versions that must be reconciled to become law. The House version calls for tough border control and workplace enforcement but does not include a citizenship plan as in the Senate's version.
Republican congressional leaders say it will be hard to complete a bill before November's midterm elections. Some Republicans called for new hearings that could postpone an agreement even more.
National security is still the top concern for the Republican voters at 20 percent, but immigration came second in the poll at 15 percent.
The poll included interviews with 804 likely Republican voters in various U.S. states from June 12-15. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.