New poll shows strong support for pathway to citizenship in Florida

The survey comes out on the same day that debate began in the U.S. Senate on the 844-page bill drafted by four Republicans and four Democrats who are labeled as the Gang of Eight. Lawmakers have already submitted more than 300 amendments to fix (and some say kill) the bill, including 77 alone from Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley.

One category of the poll that Floridians were not enthusiastic about was the statement that if comprehensive immigration reform passes, it will improve the local economy — it evoked a 38-38 percent split.

"Florida voters express very clearly that immigration reform actually makes their communities safer, and healthier, by stopping the separation of families," said Kathy Bird-Caicedo with the Florida Majority.

She said this includes stopping the separation of same-sex couples.

"They even consider that all families should stay together, regardless of their sexual orientation. This takes our debate about the inclusion of gay and lesbian couples in immigration reform to another level," she added.

The poll showed that in Bilirakis' Pasco-Pinellas Congressional 12 district, 67 percent of the 543 people surveyed said that they thought it was either 'somewhat important' or 'very important' to have comprehensive immigration reform passed this year. Yet Bilirakis told the Tampa Bay Times, "I'm definitely not for a path to citizenship. It's breaking the law and we're rewarding it."

Elena McCullough is a 24-year military veteran who ran and lost to House Speaker Will Weatherford back in 2010. She said she has met with Rep. Bilirakis on several occasions, and he now has "the input he needs" to support the legislation.

"I look forward to helping him evolve. He said he was going to keep an open mind, and I'm very optimistic," McCulllough said.

  • Gus Bilirakis says he's for border control only right now

New polls released by two activist groups — Florida Majority and Project New America — show relatively strong support for comprehensive immigration reform in Florida, including four specific Central Florida congressional districts currently controlled by Republicans Gus Bilirakis, Dennis Ross, Daniel Webster and Tom Rooney.

"Immigration reform is important to Florida voters, no matter who they are," said David Winkler, VP and director of research for Project New America, which worked with the national polling firm Public Policy Polling to interview more than 2,600 Floridians, including 500 in each of the four aforementioned congressional districts.

The state-wide poll showed that 83 percent of Floridians said it's important to pass immigration reform this year, with 77 percent saying it's important that a pathway to citizenship be included in the final bill.

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