News Release: NY-25 Citizen Panel Initiative on Immigration with Congressman Joe Morelle

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 23, 2019

Steven Kull,, (301) 254-7500
Bert Brandenburg,, (202) 841-1735

Large Majorities of Democrats & Republicans in the 25th Congressional District (Rochester) Share Common Ground on Immigration Issues

Rep. Morelle Attends “Citizen Panel Forum” to Discuss New Findings of Unique Effort to Learn and Share Rochesterians’ Views

Rochester, NY: In a unique survey of 995 residents of New York’s 25th Congressional District, majorities of Republicans and Democrats agreed on a variety of ways to deal with immigration, what to do about the status of “Dreamers,” whether to offer undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship, how to deter further illegal immigration, and more.

The survey results were released at a “Citizen Panel Forum” at the Democrat and Chronicle in downtown Rochester on Saturday.  Congressman Morelle attended and discussed the findings with dozens of the residents of the 25th District who took the online survey.

The survey and the Forum were initiated by two national nonpartisan organizations — Common Ground Solutions, a Rochester-based nonprofit led by Howard Konar, and Voice of the People, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C.

The survey was conducted by the Program for Public Consultation of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland.  Respondents went through an online process called a ‘policymaking simulation’ that puts them in the shoes of a policymaker. They were briefed on the issues, presented policy options under consideration in Congress, asked to evaluate pro and con arguments, and finally asked to make their recommendations. The content was reviewed in advance by experts on immigration from both sides of the issue to assure accuracy and balance.

A Path Forward for Dreamers

  • Eight in ten, including 71% of Republicans and 91% of Democrats, agreed on a plan for how to deal with immigrants who came illegally to the US as children, known as “Dreamers.”
  • The majorities from each party supported providing Dreamers with legal status and allowing them to apply for citizenship in 10-12 years, provided they graduate from high school, pass background checks, do not commit crimes and maintain full employment or are in the military or in school.

New Visa for Immigrants without Legal Status

  • Nearly as many (74%) went further and supported offering a new type of visa for the millions of immigrants (of all ages) who have been in the US for some years without legal status, provided they have not committed any serious crimes, and that they pay a penalty and any back taxes.
  • This visa would allow them to live and work in the U.S., and eventually apply for citizenship, though they would need to go to the back of the line, like anyone who applies for citizenship.
  • This policy proposal was supported by 61% of Republicans, as well as 85% of Democrats.

Employers’ Use of E-Verify System

  • On the issue of deterring further illegal immigration, 65% supported a proposal requiring all employers to use what is called the “E-Verify system”that is meant to ensure that current employees and all new job applicants have the legal right to work in the U.S.
    • Employers who do not verify their employees and are found to be employing undocumented immigrants will be fined.
    • Employers who repeatedly fail to use the verification system and hire undocumented immigrants may be sentenced up to 18 months in prison, and their business license may be revoked.
  • An overwhelming 85% of Republicans supported this proposal, as well as a bare majority 51% of Democrats.

E-Verify Use Raises Support for New Type of Visa

  • If an E-Verify system were to be established, support for the proposal for a new type of visa for undocumented immigrants would go up from 74% to 81%. For Republicans, support would go from 61% to 74%, and for Democrats from 85% to 90%.

Building a Wall

  • Another proposal for deterring further illegal immigration—spending $25 billion in public funds to build a stronger barrier along the US southern border with Mexico, primarily by building a wall—was more politically divisive than the other proposals.
  • The proposal was opposed by 56%, including 80% of Democrats. However,78% of Republicans favored the idea.

Temporary Visas for Specific Types of Job

  • Respondents also considered proposals for special temporary visas to deal with needs for workers.
  • A large bipartisan majority of 69% (Republicans 67%, Democrats 74%) supported substantially increasing the number of temporary work visas, called H-2B visas, for industries that rely on temporary, often seasonal, labor, such as landscaping, construction, hotels, conservation, and amusement parks.
    • Such increases would only be allowed if the government determines that there are no American workers who want those jobs and employers pay the same wage that is paid to American workers in those jobs.

Agricultural Guest Workers

  • A proposal for expanding temporary visas for agricultural guest workers received more modest support. This proposal is to lower the current requirement that requires farmers to pay guest workers $11-14 per hour to $8.43 an hour and removes the requirement to provide them housing or transportation.
    • The idea is to make it more attractive to farmers to hire workers through this legal program, rather than hiring undocumented workers and providing lower pay and benefits.
  • A modest majority of 54% supported this idea, including 60% of Republicans, but Democrats were evenly divided.

The views expressed in NY-25 were quite similar to those in two nationwide surveys of 4,635 voters provided by Nielsen Scarborough.

Members of the public can go through the same policymaking simulation at:

The survey questionnaire with findings is available online at:

The survey and the Citizen Panel Forum are part of a larger Citizen Panel Initiative, sponsored by Voice of the People and Common Ground Solutions, that seeks to give citizens tools to more effectively understand and weigh in on decisions before Congress, to give members of Congress a better understanding of their constituents, and to discern the potential for bipartisan common ground.

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