Growing support for undocumented workers seeking citizenship

FRESNO, Calif.

Provided undocumented workers have a job, learn English and pay back taxes.

90 percent of the voters polled were in favor of citizenship for illegal immigrants. The number is up seven percent from 2007.

Every year some 230,000 undocumented workers come to the central valley to work the fields and orchards.

Immigration reform has long been a priority for Manuel Cunha of the Nisei Farmers League. Cunha said, "About the last month we've seen a different attitude about this."

Cunha is encouraged by the growing support for citizenship for undocumented workers. He explained, "I've never seen it from the standpoint of the polls, the standpoint of now republicans realizing they have to deal with it and the president saying I want it on my desk."

The Field poll also showed 76 percent of voters support a guest worker program.

Fresno State political science professor Ken Hansen said, "It doesn't surprise me that public opinion is shifting in a more pragmatic way to try to deal with these issues."

But Hansen says while public opinion may be changing, it will be much tougher for politicians to actually develop a guest worker program. He said, "Immigration is one of those problems that have been allowed to fester for far too long."

Cunha said policy changes are essential to help California deal with a labor shortage. "The businesses that can't get people to do the jobs so they lose market share. They have to shut down half a day. Not just ag but hotels and restaurants."

The Field Poll also showed, for first time, the majority of voters were in favor of allowing undocumented workers to get California drivers' licenses.

52 percent approved while 43 percent were against the idea.

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