Actually, It’s Lindsey Graham Who Is Out of the Mainstream on Immigration

New poll suggests White House aide Stephen Miller and Oval Office boss are much closer to public than S.C.'s senior senator

by Brendan Kirby | Updated 23 Jan 2018 at 9:04 AM

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) ripped senior White House aide Stephen Miller as holding immigration views that are out of the American political mainstream, but a new poll suggests it is the South Carolina senator who is alienated from public sentiment.

The Harvard CAPS/Harris poll indicates a majority opposed the partial government shutdown that Graham supported and suggested broad support for many immigration views that Miller — and his boss, President Donald Trump — advocate.

The survey of 980 registered voters found 65 percent favored a law giving work permits to young illegal immigrants whose parents brought them to the U.S. as children — as long as the deal also included switching to a merit-based immigration system and limiting “chain migration.”

Those results included 68 percent of Hispanic voters, 64 percent of black voters, 64 percent of Democrats, and 63 percent of liberals.

The poll also found that 58 percent of voters opposed shutting down the government over the issue of the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which grants a qualified form of amnesty to that population. Democrats and a few Republicans forced the shutdown on Friday, although Congress voted on Monday to fund the government through February 8.

Voters surveyed also were not keen on DACA recipients' getting preference for their parents and relatives to move to the United States. Some 60 percent of voters opposed it.

Graham told reporters over the weekend Miller was particularly out of step with his views on changes to the legal immigration system.

"I've known him for a long time. I know he's passionate, and I know he was an early supporter of the president," Graham said. "But I'll just tell you, his view of immigration has never been in the mainstream in the Senate … Mr. Miller wants to restrict legal immigration at a time when we have a worker shortage."

Miller may be out of touch with the Senate, as Graham said. But the Harvard CAPS/Harris poll found the public is much closer to Miller and the White House than it is to Graham.

Some 79 percent said immigration priority should be given to people whose education and skills make it likely they can contribute positively to America. That is a view shared by 85 percent of black voters and 72 percent of those who voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

Majorities of Democrats, Hispanics and African-Americans — and 68 percent of respondents overall — oppose the diversity visa lottery, which randomly awards green cards to about 50,000 people chosen at random from applicants drawn from around the world. Ending the system is another Trump priority.

The results are similar to those found earlier this month in a poll commissioned by NumbersUSA, which favors a reduction in immigration to the United States.

The Harvard CAPS/Harris poll found the public is much closer to Miller and the White House than it is to Graham.

"That was exactly my same thought, that, wow, these answers are really similar to ours," said Chris Chmielenski, director of content and activism at the organization.

Chmielenski said the new survey, coming from Harvard University's Center for American Political Studies and the Harris Poll, might have more credibility.

"It was nice to have someone else asking these questions other than us," he said.

Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), agreed the survey would be harder to dismiss than one paid for by an advocacy organization.

"These institutions don't have a dog in this fight, per se," he told LifeZette. "They have no particular interest in the outcome."

Other findings in the Harvard/Harris poll include:

  • 61 percent of voters believe current border security is inadequate.
  • 79 percent of voters favor secure borders; that includes 68 percent of Democrats and 81 percent of Hispanics.
  • 54 percent of voters support building a combination of physical and electronic barriers along the southwest border.
  • Less than 10 percent of voters support current levels of immigration.
  • 81 percent, meanwhile, favor reducing the number of immigrants admitted each year.

Chmielenski said those results are a powerful argument against Graham's characterization of Miller's views.

Related: Schumer Offers Phony Shutdown Concession, Trump Aide Claims

"If Lindsey Graham were mainstream, we'd have open borders," he said.

Mehlman said Graham may well be right that Miller is out of the mainstream — inside the Senate. But he said public sentiment is clear and undoubtedly played into the calculations of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to throw in the towel Monday on the shutdown.

"I think they do recognize that the public is against them on this," Mehlman said.

PoliZette senior writer Brendan Kirby can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter.

(photo credit, homepage image: Lindsey Graham, CC BY 2.0, by Jim Greenhill; photo credit, article image: Lindsey Graham, CC BY 2.0, by Jim Greenhill)

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