Thursday, January 10, 2008

Immigration Not Wedge Issue in New Hampshire's Primary

What issues did voters consider in the recently held New Hampshire primary? According to CNN and New York Times exit polls, the economy and the war on Iraq ranked as the top two issues for voters of both parties. Although Republicans rated undocumented immigration third, the percentage fell from 33 percent during the Iowa caucuses to 22 percent in New Hampshire (Houston Chronicle).

Both Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), who won the New Hampshire primary and Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), who won the Iowa caucuses support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants (Pew Forum). A University of Iowa poll (March 2007) found that the majority of Iowans support a path to citizenship. The majority of voters favoring New Hampshire primary winner Senator John McCain (R-AZ), also support an opportunity for undocumented immigrants to apply for citizenship (NY Times).

Moreover, according to the Houston Chronicle, TV campaign ads critical of McCain's support of immigration reform did not set back his bid for New Hampshire, and in fact, worked in his favor. In exit polls taken, the majority of Republican candidate Governor Mitt Romney's supporters ranked undocumented immigration as the top issue (NY Times).

Following the primary results, Republican candidate Mike Huckabee retracted previous statements in which he expressed support for a change in the Constitution's 14th amendment which would deny citizenship to the US-born children of undocumented immigrants. Among its stipulations the 14th Amendment guarantees birthright citizenship to those born on U.S. soil.

Whether immigration will rank higher in upcoming primaries remains uncertain, but one point resonates - anti-immigrant rhetoric fails. Despite a misguided anti-immigrant fervor, the majority of the American public continue to support a humane solution to the nation's out-of-date immigration system.