Yet another Texas poll shows that there's a roughly even split of opinion over President Bush's immigration reform plan.
Forty-eight percent of the 1,000 Texans surveyed randomly by telephone endorsed Bush's plan, 45 percent opposed it and 7 percent declined to give an opinion. The proposal drew the most support among Hispanics -- 55 percent -- compared with 49 percent among Anglos and 37 percent among black people.
In addition to underscoring the polarized views on Bush's proposal, the Texas Poll also showed that Texans are increasingly frustrated with the flow of undocumented immigrants across the border. As many as 700,000 undocumented workers are believed to be living in Texas.
The poll was conducted by the Scripps Howard media organization Feb. 12-March 3 for the Star-Telegram and several other Texas news outlets. The margin of error due to sampling is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Sixty-nine percent of Texans say the government is not doing enough to stop unauthorized immigration, an 11-point increase from August 2001. An almost identical percentage -- 68 percent -- said the U.S. government should not make it easier for undocumented residents to obtain U.S. citizenship.
The survey also shows strikingly different racial and ethnic attitudes on virtually every category. Hispanics, constituting the nation's biggest and fastest growing minority, tended to be more sympathetic toward undocumented immigrants, though there was sharp disagreement within that group as well.
And what are the odds of something passing this year?
At a joint news conference during the visit, Bush expressed hope that Congress would pass the measure but conceded that "there's no telling what's going to happen in an election year." Lawmakers in both parties have issued the same assessment.
"The prospects for legislation this year are pretty dim," said Dan Griswold, an immigration expert at the Cato Institute in Washington.
Sen. John Cornyn conceded Tuesday that immigration reform, and a proposal to extend the length of stay of Mexican visitors to the United States, are receiving opposition in Congress during a heated election year.
Cornyn, R-Texas, told border business leaders that changes to current laws face an uphill battle because "political extremists" dominate the debate.
"We are having to educate people in Congress and elsewhere," Cornyn told the Border Trade Alliance conference at the Watergate Hotel.
The senator's comments came an hour before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on immigration policy and U.S.-Mexico relations.
The president's proposal has received opposition from House Republicans who have characterized citizenship and guest worker programs as amnesty to undocumented workers.
Democrats say the president's proposal falls far short of providing significant protections for immigrant laborers and workers, and accuse Bush of using the issue as an election-year pitch to Hispanic voters.
Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., argued that if Bush were serious about immigration reform, he'd use the White House to push his proposal through the House over Republican opposition.
And hey, you don't even have to push for the whole legislative enchilada to call yourself a success. You can advocate for non-controversial things like implementing the proper technology so already-instituted programs can do what they're supposed to. How're we doing on that score?
A new entry/exit system to track visitors to the United States is part of the US-VISIT program and must be implemented at 50 land ports by Jan. 1, 2005.
Border business leaders are concerned the new program will bottleneck traffic for Mexican nationals who own property in the United States and shop at American retail stores.
Cornyn has urged the administration to complete technology and infrastructure requirements, and to make sure the program will not harm border economies, before implementing US-VISIT.
"It is bad policy, it is a mistake, to implement a program before we know how it is going to impact the economy," Cornyn said. "That is what we are risking if we implement US-VISIT on our border before we know what we are doing."
Cornyn said the Homeland Security Department has yet to determine specifications, plans and costs for implementing the program at most border ports of entry.
"That worries me a great deal," Cornyn said. "I can assure you we are not going to implement the US-VISIT program in such a haphazard way."