Fox News host Bill O'Reilly claimed that "most Americans have no tolerance for what they call amnesty" in the Senate immigration bill, and Fox News political contributor Newt Gingrich called the bill "absurd" because "it will be very unpopular." But recent polling almost universally shows that Americans support a path to citizenship -- provided for in the Senate bill -- for some illegal immigrants currently in the United States.
On the June 20 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly claimed that House Republicans "know most Americans have no tolerance for what they [House Republicans] call amnesty" in the Senate immigration bill. Similarly, on the June 21 edition of The Factor, former House Speaker and Fox News political contributor Newt Gingrich (R-GA) alleged that House Republicans don't want to adopt the "absurd amnesty bill the Senate passed" or "an amnesty bill of any kind," because "it will be very unpopular." In fact, the Senate bill does not call for "amnesty," as some opponents of the bill suggest, but instead proposes a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants currently in the United States, a provision that most recent polling shows a majority of Americans support.
For example, a May 16-17 CBS News poll found that 77 percent of those polled favored "let[ting] illegal immigrants already here for 5 years stay & work if they learn English, pay back taxes and a fine, and have no criminal record." Likewise, a May 16-17 CNN poll showed that 79 percent favored "creating a program that would allow illegal immigrants already living in the United States for a number of years to stay in this country and apply for U.S. citizenship if they had a job and paid back taxes." And when asked in a CBS/New York Times poll issued May 4-8, "[I]f you had to choose, what do you think should happen to most illegal immigrants who have lived and worked in the United States for at least two years? They should be given a chance to keep their jobs and eventually apply for legal status. OR, They should be deported back to their native country," 61 percent supported immigrants having the chance to keep their jobs.
The comments by O'Reilly and Gingrich also ignored other aspects of the House bill that Americans oppose and parts of the Senate bill Americans support. The House bill includes a provision making illegal presence in the U.S. a felony. In the most recent polling that asked for an opinion on the House provision that would make illegal immigration a felony, an April 27 CNN poll found that 56 percent opposed the provision. The poll also found that 77 percent approved of the plan put forth in the Senate bill to allow immigrants who have lived in America for at least five years to apply for citizenship.
Moreover, May 5-7 Gallup poll (subscription required) that asked Americans to express their "view about what government policy should be toward illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States," found that 61 percent supported a policy that would allow immigrants to "remain in the U.S. and become a citizen." A May 3 Zogby poll did show more support for the House bill than the Senate bill, but that poll misrepresented both proposals, as Media Matters for America documented. Polls from April also showed consistently stronger public support for the Senate bill than for the House bill, as Media Matters also demonstrated.
From a discussion with Steve Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies, on the June 20 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: "Unresolved problem" segment tonight, the debate continues over what to do with an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the USA. The Senate wants many of them to stay, with strict oversight. The House wants all of them to go back home. Joining us now is Dr. Steven Camarota, the director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, a hard-line anti-illegal immigration group. OK. So I don't think there's going to be a compromise here. Both the House and the Senate are dug in to their positions. The Republicans in the House see it as a campaign issue. They know most Americans have no tolerance for what they call amnesty. But you've done some research that the Senate basically puts forth seven million people would be allowed to stay here approximately. Seven million people. And then you take it from there. Out of those seven million, what would happen?
CAMAROTA: Well, right. We think that of the people who are eligible, a little over seven million will actually come forward and get their legalization. In addition to that, based on the last amnesty and some other work people have done looking at how much fraud there actually is in the immigration system, we expect one fraudulent application for every three legitimate. So another almost three million can be expected to get it fraudulently.
From the June 21 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
GINGRICH: Well, I would encourage the House Republicans to do what they've announced in the last two days, and that is, go to the country, hold hearings. I hope every member of both parties will go to the country and hold hearings. I would challenge the senators to do the same thing. Get out of Washington and in August spend a week or two back home actually listening to the American people, not the lobbyists, not the theoreticians, not the staffs. Go back home, and I would challenge the senators, go around the country and hold open hearings on this absurd amnesty bill the Senate passed, and I think they'd come back in September ready to talk about a much narrower bill, a bill which sequenced first, controlling the border; second, going --
O'REILLY: All right, I got all that. But don't you think the Republicans want no bill. They don't want anything so they can campaign on it. Come on.
GINGRICH: There will be an enormous advantage for the House Republicans to get a border control bill signed by the president. That would be popular with the country, it would be attractive, and it's the right first step.
O'REILLY: I see what you mean. So, if their bill goes, that would be an advantage, but they don't want to compromise on it.
GINGRICH: Well, they certainly don't want an amnesty bill of any kind because it'll be very unpopular.