Majority in state frown on immigration reform

A new poll shows a majority of Nevadans now oppose immigration reform that includes a path toward citizenship for illegal immigrants.

The survey, commissioned by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and 8NewsNow, also reflects a growing divide on the issue between Hispanics and non-Hispanics.

Overall, 57 percent of Nevadans now say they oppose immigration reform legislation that allows those living here without legal status to be given the opportunity to stay and apply for citizenship. That's up from a mid-April poll in which 48 percent said they would oppose such legislation.

Thirty-six percent of Nevadans now say they would support such legislation, down from 45 percent in April.

Among Hispanics, 83 percent say they would support reform with a path toward citizenship, up from 68 percent in April. Twenty-six percent of Hispanics were opposed to such legislation in April, while only 11 percent were opposed in the new poll.

"The Hispanic community wants this issue addressed more broadly, while a majority of other people say, 'Hey, let's secure the border and then worry about the other issues,' " said Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, which conducted the telephone poll of 625 registered Nevada voters Aug. 9-11.

The poll's overall margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points. The margin of error for subgroups is plus or minus 10 percent, Coker said.

Coker theorized the rise in opposition may reflect anger over the Obama administration's decision to file a lawsuit against a new Arizona law targeting illegal immigrants.

"The public supports the Arizona law for the most part, and the federal government is swimming against the tide," he said.

A July Mason-Dixon poll showed 63 percent of Nevadans would support bringing such a law here.

But Assemblyman Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, said high unemployment and the struggling economy are more to blame for growing opposition to immigration reform that includes a path toward citizenship.

People believe illegal immigrants are taking jobs away from American citizens, he said.

"Obviously if we make it harder for them to stay in the country and get work, we can put other people in Nevada to work."

Gustavson said people also are fed up with the crime and national security threats they believe are associated with illegal immigration.

He has asked the Legislative Counsel Bureau to draft a bill for the 2011 legislative session based on Arizona's law.

Fernando Romero, president of Hispanics in Politics, said Hispanics have united in their support for reform that includes a path toward citizenship "because we are being vilified."

"Now even U.S. citizens (who are Hispanic) are being vilified," he said. "They're calling us 'anchor babies.' "

Many of those who oppose such reform don't understand all that it would include, Romero said.

"The undocumented would have to pay fines and wait years to be eligible for citizenship. It's not amnesty. Amnesty is something that is given. Comprehensive immigration reform is something you have to work for."

Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at 702-383-0285 or