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Though she’s in the minority in the Republican-controlled Congress, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., gained newfound clout last week in shaping the nation’s immigration policy. She and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced they’d reached a deal with President Trump on protecting the Dreamers.
The Dreamers are the 800,000 young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children and temporarily shielded from deportation under the Obama-era DACA program. About one quarter live in California.
This week, Pelosi claimed three-quarters of Americans support what she described as the legislative solution for safeguarding Dreamers from deportation: the DREAM Act.
First introduced in 2001, the DREAM Act is a bipartisan bill that would offer protections for immigrants brought to the country illegally as children as long as they meet certain requirements. It would also include a path to citizenship for those who graduate from U.S. high schools and attend college, enter the workforce, or enlist in a military program.
Pelosi made her claim during a speech Sept. 18, 2017 at Sacramento State University:
"Seventy-six percent of the American people support us passing the DREAM Act … with citizenship and legalization as part of it all. … More than 60 percent of Republicans support that."
We interpreted the second portion of her statement, about citizenship and legalization, to mean Americans are comfortable with one or the other option, particularly for immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
Given the heated debate around immigration, we wanted to know whether such a large share of Americans really support the DREAM Act, or at least the key provisions of the bill.
We set out on a fact check.
As evidence for the claim, Pelosi’s spokesman pointed to a Politico/Morning Consult poll conducted Aug. 31 through Sept. 3, 2017. The poll includes responses from nearly 2,000 registered voters.
The questions didn’t mention the DREAM Act specifically, but instead asked about the main thrust of the legislation.
Here’s the question that got the closest:
"As you may know, Dreamers are young people who were brought to the United States illegally when they were children, often with their parents. Which of the following do you think is the best way to handle Dreamers?"
• 58 percent said Dreamers "should be allowed to stay and become citizens if they meet certain requirements."
• 18 percent said Dreamers "should be allowed to stay and become legal residents, but NOT citizens, if they meet certain requirements."
Combined, this totals the 76 percent Pelosi cited.
Backing up her point about Republican support, the poll found 69 percent of Republicans and 84 percent of Democrats surveyed favored one of these two options.
The late August poll backs up Pelosi’s claim. But we wanted to know whether other polls had asked similar questions and whether they told a different story.
Kathleen Frankovic, a leading expert on public opinion polling, told us there haven’t been many recent surveys specifically on the DREAM Act. The new version of the bill was only introduced in July 2017.
She said in an email that other polling has shown "general support for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants."
She cited a September 2017 poll by The Economist/YouGov in which 69 percent favored either a path to citizenship or legal status when asked "Which comes closest to your view about illegal immigrants who are living in the U.S.?" The question did not specifically ask about Dreamers.
Frankovic cautioned: "Since wording can affect answers on this subject, politicians can pick and choose the numbers they want to cite, the ones that make the strongest case for their position."
A question in a CNN/ORC poll from March 2017 offers a more detailed description of the type of immigrant that should be considered for legal status. It results in a higher favorability rating.
Respondents were asked: "Now, thinking about how the U.S. government should treat illegal immigrants who have been in this country for a number of years, hold a job, speak English and are willing to pay any back taxes that they owe. Would you favor or oppose a bill that allowed those immigrants to stay in this country rather than being deported and eventually allow them to apply for U.S. citizenship?
Ninety percent said they favored such a bill.
Three Gallup polls in recent years show increasing support for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
• A December 2010 Gallup poll found 54 percent of Americans, at that time, supported allowing "illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to gain legal resident status if they join the military or go to college." It found 66 percent of Democrats favored it, while only 34 percent of Republicans backed the idea.
• A July 2015 Gallup poll found 65 percent of U.S. adults favored a plan to allow immigrants who were living illegally in the U.S. to remain in the country and become citizens if they met certain requirements over time.
• One year later, a July 2016 Gallup poll, found 84 percent of U.S. adults favored that idea. Looking at the parties, 91 percent of Democrats and 76 percent of Republicans supported it.
• A previous Politico/Morning Consult poll from April 2017, found 78 percent of respondents backed the idea of a path to citizenship or legal status under certain requirements.
• Explaining his desire to find a legislative solution, President Trump claimed in September 2017 that 92 percent of Americans "agree on DACA," the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. PolitiFact national examined support for the temporary protection program and found high favorability ratings, but not as high as 92 percent. It rated Trump’s claim Half True.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi recently said 76 percent of "the American people support us passing the DREAM Act … with citizenship and legalization as part of it all. … More than 60 percent of Republicans support that."
We interpreted the second part of her claim to mean three-quarters of Americans support either a path to citizenship or legal status, particularly for immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
Gallup polls from recent years show increasing support for the key points of the DREAM Act, ranging from 54 percent in 2010 to 65 percent in 2015 to 84 percent in 2016.
Additional surveys show about two-thirds to three-quarters of respondents have backed a path to citizenship for immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally, under certain conditions.
Pelosi’s claim is backed up by the polling.
We rate it True.
TRUE – The statement is accurate and there’s nothing significant missing.
Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, speech at Sacramento State University, Sept. 18, 2017
Drew Hammill, spokesman for Rep. Pelosi, email exchange Sept. 18, 2017
PolitiFact, President Donald Trump's Half True claim that support for DACA is as high as '92 percent', Sept. 18, 2017
Email interview, Kathleen Frankovic, expert in public opinion polling, Sept. 19, 2017
Morning Consult and Politico, National Tracking Poll conducted Sept. 7-11, 2017
Morning Consult and Politico poll, Morning Consult National Tracking Poll #170409, April 20-24, 2017
YouGov, Most Americans support DACA - but Trump's base opposes, The Economist/YouGov poll, Sept. 5, 2017
Politico, Poll: Majority wants Congress to establish path to citizenship for DACA recipients, Sept. 13, 2017
Gallup, In U.S., 65% Favor Path to Citizenship for Illegal Immigrants, Aug. 12, 2015
Gallup, Slim Majority of Americans Would Vote for DREAM Act Law, Dec. 10, 2010
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