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Public support slips for path toward citizenship

Advocates are rebounding from setback after setback, and it looks like they were just hit with one more.
People hold American Flags during a naturalization ceremony at Federal Hall for approximately 75 citizenship candidates from 31 countries on May 22, 2014 in New York City.
People hold American Flags during a naturalization ceremony at Federal Hall for approximately 75 citizenship candidates from 31 countries on May 22, 2014 in New York City.

There is virtually no chance House Republicans will take up immigration reform and President Obama has broken his promise to take swift executive action on deportation policies, leaving advocates coping with one setback after another. According to a new survey -- it gets worse.

A new poll out this week by NBC News/Wall Street Journal shows waning public support for offering a path toward citizenship for potentially millions of undocumented immigrants who currently live in the shadows.

Some 53% of Americans said they supported a pathway, while 45% opposed it, the poll found. That's more than a 10-point drop from last April, just months before the Senate passed its comprehensive immigration reform bill, when 64% of the public supported a pathway toward citizenship, over 35% who opposed it.

The shift comes after a politically charged summer on immigration issues when an influx of unaccompanied minors overwhelmed federal resources at the border, opening the Obama administration up to conservative rallying cries for tighter border security and accusations that the president is at fault for attracting the migrant kids who had false hopes of being granted "amnesty."

The public's views of Republican attacks on border security are beginning to soften as well. Now 52% of Americans feel Republican calls to tighten the border are merely an excuse to block reform, down from 59% last July. Another 40% said they believe border security is a legitimate concern, up four points from the year before.

Advocacy groups that have accused House Republicans of "squandering" political will and public backing of immigration reform are now keeping the pressure on members of Congress to keep Latino issues on the table, putting even Democrats on notice too.

The nation's largest Latino advocacy groups are unveiling a scorecard for members of Congress to educate their community on where their lawmakers stand on immigration, economic issues and executive appointments.

“Neither party, is seems, has our back when we really need them,” said Janet Murguía, president of the National Council at the La Raza, the largest Hispanic advocacy group in the country. "We are discouraged but we are not defeated. And we have no choice but to appeal to our community."

Advocates enraged over President Obama’s decision to delay executive action on deportation policies until after the midterm elections sharply criticized the move as a nod to partisan politics. The delay adds to a steady stream of letdowns for the Latino community, which has seen their hopes of reform dashed repeatedly over the last several years.

Still, Murguía said groups are confident that President Obama would take executive action, if not solely to shield potentially millions of undocumented immigrants from threats of deportation, but out of his own self-interest to affirm his legacy. 

"If he is going to put this delay on, we are going to need to see bolder and higher action from him," she said at a press conference on Wednesday.

"I trust that the president cares a great deal about his legacy," she said, "we will see action by this president if not right after the election, certainly before he leaves office."