BOSTON - Requiring proof of legal residency for state subsidies like housing or welfare, an illegal immigration crackdown rejected last month by state representatives, wins 7-to-1 support among Massachusetts voters, according to a new poll.
The polls found 84 percent of voters believed the Legislature should force applicants for state benefits to produce proof of citizenship or residency, while just 12 percent said no and 4 percent were undecided.
The state Senate turned aside a similar proposal during its budget debate yesterday, instead codifying existing practice for unemployment assistance and welfare.
Sixty-three percent agreed that "everyone in America should be required to produce documents proving that they are here in the U.S. legally," while 30 percent said they should not.
Conducted from May 20 to May 23, the Suffolk University/7NEWS survey of 500 registered voters carried an error margin of plus-minus 4.4 percent.
Asked if they were aware of the recent Arizona law aimed at restricting illegal immigration, which has drawn national attention and led to a broiling debate, 94 percent of respondents said they were and 6 percent said they were not. Fifty-three percent said they supported the law and 40 percent opposed. That support flipped when respondents were asked if the Bay State should pass a similar law, 43 percent saying yes and 50 percent saying no.
Asked whether the federal government was right to grant political asylum to President Barack Obama's aunt, who had lived illegally in South Boston for six years but reportedly feared being harmed if returned to Kenya, 58 percent called asylum the right decision and 29 percent said she should have been deported.
The stark rejection of state subsidies for people who do not provide documentation comes weeks after the House voted, 82-75, to defeat Sandwich Republican Rep. Jeff Perry's proposed ban. Senate budget deliberations took an emotional turn Wednesday, when an Anti-Defamation League official at a State House rally warned against "racists, white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other extremists" on the fringes of the anti-immigration movement and said society faced a danger when their sentiments moved into the mainstream.
Senate Republicans said they were offended at the remarks and their context, Sen. Robert Hedlund taking to the floor to call ADL New England regional director Derrek Shulman's comments "reprehensible" and a "disgraceful smear." Senate President Therese Murray issued a statement condemning the remarks.
Senators ultimately adopted a narrower amendment than the affidavit requirement the GOP had proposed.