Josue Benavides, 28, center, who is originally from El Salvador, poses for a portrait with his cousins Jonathan, 7, left, and Christopher Benavides, 11, of Alexandria, Va., after attending the "Rally for Citizenship," a rally in support of immigration reform, on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Wednesday, April 10, 2013. Bipartisan groups in the House and Senate are said to be completing immigration bills that include a pathway to citizenship for the nation's 11 million immigrants with illegal status. "We need reform," says Josue Benavides, "so that the families can have a better life and avoid separations." (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)AP2013
Undocumented Mexican immigrant Jeanette Vizguerra (L), her husband Salvador and their children Luna, 7, and Roberto, 5, walk to her immigration hearing in federal court on July 13, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.2011 Getty Images
A new poll shows that the vast majority of undocumented immigrants have U.S. citizen relatives and that nearly 90 percent would apply to be U.S. citizens if they had an opportunity to do so.
The poll, conducted by Latino Decisions, found that the immigrants had deep ties to the United States, despite their life in the shadows. Nearly 70 percent say they have lived in the United States at least a decade, the report said.
“They have deep roots in America, with strong family and social connections to U.S. citizens, painting a portrait of a community that is very integrated into the American fabric, and hopeful of a chance to gain legal status and ultimately citizenship,” said the report by Latino Decisions.
The poll was released Monday, a day before a bipartisan group in the U.S. Senate is expected to unveil a measure that would reform the immigration system in a way that tightens border security but also provides a pathway to legal status for the country’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.
The issue of family-based immigration, long the core of the U.S. immigration system, is a central one in the debate over how to overhaul the system.
Many on the liberal side favor an immigration system that keeps family ties as a preference, but those who support more strict immigration policies want family ties de-emphasized and skills to be a more important determinant of who gains U.S. permanent residency.
The Senate bill is said to limit family-based visas and increase employment-based ones.
Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who is considered a possible 2016 presidential candidate, released a book earlier this year that argued that stressing family ties over business ones when allowing people to live in the United States threatened the country’s ability to compete globally and maintain a strong economy.
Like many who want a more conservative approach to immigration, Bush said that the United States should restrict its definition of family to include spouses and minor children, for instance, and not siblings.
Advocates of more lenient immigration laws, however, maintain that it’s in the best interests of the United States to have families stay together, providing for more stability that in the long run benefits the larger society.
The poll surveyed about 400 undocumented immigrants, and was conducted for America’s Voice and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund, both groups that favor more flexible immigration laws.
Elizabeth Llorente can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on https://twitter.com/Liz_Llorente