While opposing enforcement-related guidelines for immigration reform, a survey of 500 Latino voters revealed broad support for including criminal background checks as part of a quicker path to citizenship, with 94 percent of respondents saying they would approve of such a measure.
"Latinos are supportive of that notion because there's very little to worry about in the community that these background checks are going to turn anything up," said Matt Barreto of Latino Decisions, the political research firm that compiled the survey alongside advocacy group Presente.org, in a press conference call on Tuesday. "We know that by and large those applying will not have criminal records and will be able to move on, so that is not seen as a burden."
Those findings, he said, match the findings of an April 2013 poll (PDF) Latino Decisions conducted of 400 undocumented immigrants.
At the same time, there was widespread opposition to the border security "triggers" that have been closely-tied to the Senate bill introduced by the "Gang of 8" bipartisan group. Barreto said 81 percent of respondents wanted to see the issue of a path to citizenship addressed concurrently with security, including 66 percent of those who identified themselves as Republican voters. Respondents also opposed, by a 66 percent to 29 percent margin, the idea of immigrations officials increasing the amount of raids on workplaces or homes.
With the Senate voting on Tuesday to begin debate on an immigration bill, said Presente executive director Arturo Carmona, the poll shows that "Latinos fundamentally reject the punitive, enforcement-heavy direction of the immigration reforms in Congress."
The poll also showed strong support for LGBT-related issues tied to immigration; 61 percent of respondents said they would support allowing same-sex couples to have the ability to serve as sponsors for residency applications. Felipe Sousa-Rodríguez, co-director of GetEqual, said such a measure, which was opposed by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and other lawmakers before being dropped from the Senate's immigration bill, could impact as many as 267,000 undocumented immigrants who identify as being part of the LGBT communities.
"There are about 40,000 binational couples across the United States," who is an undocumented immigrant himself. "This is one of the reasons why the LGBT movement has been taking immigration reform as one of the most important things to us."
Though the poll also showed broad support for President Barack Obama and the Democratic party -- 57 percent of respondents said they planned to support Democrats in the 2014 elections and 77 percent reported a "favorable" opinion of Obama -- Carmona said the results spoke to a feeling that Democrats had joined Republicans in refusing to listen to the Latino community.
"The poll sends two powerful messages from Latinos to the Democratic party and the president: stop adding more policies punishing immigrants and start fighting for real reform, real citizenship, instead of simply accomodating Republicans," he explained.
Update: The initial quote from Matt Baretto has been corrected for accuracy to "We know that by and large those applying will not have criminal records and will be able to move on, so that is not seen as a burden.".
[Image: "Washington, Dc - March 21: A Giant American Flag Is Carried Among Some 200,000 Immigrants' Rights Activists Flood The National Mall On March 21, 2010 In Washington DC." By Ryan Rodrick Beiler via Shutterstock.com]