Most Americans back a path to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, which is a key component in both the Senate bipartisan framework and the president’s plan.
But an earned path to citizenship has drawn support from unexpected sources, too. A number of Tea Party lawmakers, evangelicals, and conservative leaders are part of the growing momentum calling for comprehensive immigration reform to include citizenship:
1. Rand Paul
In his response to the State of the Union, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said the Tea Party, “must be the party that says, ‘If you want to work, if you want to become an American, we welcome you.”‘ Paul first embraced an “eventual path” to citizenship for undocumented immigrants after the 2012 election, though his past positions include wanting to deny citizenship to the children of immigrants. Marco Rubio, another Tea Party favorite, also endorses citizenship.
2. Grover Norquist
Grover Norquist has led the right’s anti-tax fights on the fiscal cliff and sequester, but he is a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform. “Texas is a voice on making sure the center-right movement — conservatives, Republicans, Americans — are seen properly on this issue,” Norquist said earlier in February. “We’re getting past this sense that conservatives are supposed to be anti-immigrant.”
3. Fox News Chief Roger Ailes
In an interview with The New Republic Fox News chief Roger Ailes said, “I think the word ‘illegal immigration’ is a false name. We should all defend sovereignty, then take a Judeo-Christian approach to immigration. I don’t have any problem with a path to citizenship.” Though Ailes’ motives are unclear — he said in the same interview Latinos are a “tremendous business opportunity” for the network — Fox News personalities have considerably softened their commentary on immigration reform, notably Sean Hannity. “You create a pathway for those people that are here — you don’t say you’ve got to go home,” Hannity said in November. “And that is a position that I’ve evolved on.”
4. Conservative evangelicals
Focus on the Family joined joined other conservative evangelicals, traditionally the least supportive of comprehensive reform, to campaign for “compassionate and just treatment of immigrants.” In November, the Evangelical Immigration Table sent an open letter to Congress requesting citizenship or legalization for undocumented immigrants. According to a 2010 Public Religion Research Institute poll, evangelicals support reform with citizenship by a margin of 2-1. Six years ago, Pew found a majority of white evangelicals viewed immigration as a threat. Now, evangelical leaders cite a new understanding of the Bible as the reason for the shift.
5. Border State Republicans
Republicans from the state with the nation’s fifth-highest Latino population became the first state GOP party to endorse comprehensive immigration with a clear path to citizenship. Party officials said the GOP’s hard line on immigration reform conflicts with the “party’s historic commitment to civil rights.” Though many Texas Republicans have yet to officially come forward, there is a Democratic-sponsored resolution in the House urging Congress to “swiftly enact and fund comprehensive immigration reform that creates a road map to citizenship.”