SACRAMENTO (CBS/AP) — Nine in 10 California voters say they support allowing illegal immigrants who have been in the country for several years to stay and become citizens if they have a job, learn English and pay any back taxes they may owe, according to a Field Poll released Friday.
The poll, which comes as Congress prepares to debate federal immigration reform, also found that a majority of voters support allowing residents who are in the U.S. illegally to get California driver’s licenses, a reversal from previous surveys.
Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Salinas, has proposed legislation this year that would allow the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue licenses to any resident who can show they pay taxes, regardless of their immigration status. Former state Sen. Gil Cedillo, a Democrat, tried for more than a decade to make such a change, but his efforts either did not make it through the Legislature or were vetoed by previous governors.
The Legislature took a partial step last year when Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill by Cedillo that allows some young illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. Those immigrants would have to be eligible for work permits under a new federal deferred-action policy.
While the poll found voters support loosening restrictions on some illegal immigrants, it also found that two-thirds favor boosting the number of federal agents patrolling the border with Mexico. Most also support stringent penalties for employers who hire illegal workers.
Three-quarters of those surveyed said they supported adding significantly more visas for immigrants with engineering or other advanced degrees, creating temporary worker programs and allowing illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition for college as they do if they attend for three years and graduate from a California high school.