Larry Mantle |

National polling shows strong support for Arizona's anti-illegal immigration bill

Though I didn't find it surprising that the majority of Americans favored Arizona's SB-1070, I was surprised at the majority of Democrats polled who didn't have a problem with having to prove their legal status, if asked to do so by law enforcement officers. We certainly have had a mix of "AirTalk" listener opinions about the law. However, my sense has been that most Democrats were probably opposed to the bill.

The Pew Foundation pollster I interviewed on Thursday didn't see direct linkage between attitudes about the Arizona law and the propects for immigration reform. However, I think it points out how difficult it will be to get the majority of Americans to buy into a path to legal status for those in the country illegally.

Though there's a practical argument to be made for "regularizing" those already here, I think the most passionate defenders of the idea are tapping into empathy for long-term illegal immigrants. If that empathy doesn't run broadly and deeply, then I'm not sure the practical argument will be convincing to enough people to pass reform.

Throughout the whole argument over illegal immigration, we come up against the question of what is "fair." For supporters of reform, they argue it's unfair to deny a path to legalization for those who've been working and raising families here for years. For those opposed, they see it as unfair to provide such a path to those who broke the law to come.

Americans come back to the fairness test over and over again on many important and controversial issues. Where they perceive the larger unfairness will undoubtedly hold sway over what Americans are willing to support with immigration.