For all the demagoguery and recent panic in Democratic circles, it turns out according to a new LAT/Bloomberg poll that the basic principles of comprehensive reform are still popular: "About 60% of Democrats, Republicans and independents support 'a path to citizenship by registering, paying a fine, getting fingerprinted, and learning English, among other requirements.'" As Marc Ambinder points out this is the thing that opponents call "amnesty" so even if "amnesty" is unpopular, the thing that "amnesty" denotes is popular.
The public continues, however, to be hostile to the idea of allowing illegal immigrants to avail themselves of public services. That underscores the central need to place specific immigration issues in the context of broad immigration policy -- even if Tim Russert and Wolf Blitzer don't like it. Everyone agrees, at the end of the day, that it's dumb to have a big population of people availing themselves of social services who aren't even allowed to be in the country. But comprehensive reform featuring a path to citizen is a practical, economically viable, humane way of accomplishing that and despite a lack of public leadership for the past few months the public still seems to recognize it as such.
Photo by Flickr user Skunks used under a Creative Commons license
Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.