BISMARCK, N.D. - Most North Dakotans believe the country's immigration reform system needs to be fixed, and a new poll also has found majority support for the U.S. Senate bill crafted by the bipartisan "Gang of Eight." The legislation includes a rigorous path to citizenship.
The plan includes reforms to the immigrant work visa program. In a state where unemployment is under 3 percent, that is vital, according to Andy Peterson, president of the Greater North Dakota Chamber of Commerce.
"We need workers, and as many workers as we can get, so we are supportive of immigration reform," Peterson said. "We like the idea that folks could come here and find a job, and we could look to the future for our work force."
In the poll, 68 percent of North Dakota respondents said they support the "Gang of Eight" proposal being debated in the Senate, and nearly two out of three support a path to citizenship, which Peterson supports, as well.
"We are not suggesting that it's easy or that they get a 'free pass,'" he explained. "Rather, we're suggesting that they have to go through a process in order to get citizenship and that they come out of the shadows and work in the legal system and contribute to society, just the way that all Americans do."
In 2011, the Pew Hispanic Center estimated that the number of immigrants living in North Dakota who were not in the U.S. legally was fewer than 10,000.
The full poll results are available at http://americasvoiceonline.org.