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Immigration finds some common ground in local survey 

Large majorities of Democrats and Republicans in the 25th Congressional District share ‘common ground’ on immigration issues.

That much was illustrated through a survey of 995 people in the 25th Congressional District commissioned by Common Ground Solutions and Voice of the People. Both are non-partisan civic organizations that aim to foster civic engagement and help forge common ground solutions to difficult issues.

The two groups held a discussion around the thorny issues now before members of Congress on Saturday at the Democrat and Chronicle's downtown building. At the forum, they revealed the results of the survey, which was conducted by the Program for Public Consultation of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland.

One of several survey results discussed Saturday included DACA, the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program. Of those who responded to the survey in the 25th Congressional District, 81 percent overall (including 71 percent of Republicans and 91 percent of Democrats) supported the concept of providing legal status to undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and in 10 to 12 years, making them eligible to apply for citizenship. That was similar to survey results for the U.S. population as a whole.

Representative Joe Morelle was among those in the room of more than 50 people as results of the survey, which was given to his constituents, were discussed.

He said the conversation was different than a town hall experience.

“Not that I don’t love town halls, because we do them, but they tend to be people giving their opinions, which is fine," Morelle said. "Here they had to react to proposals; give their opinions about it, but got a lot more data that they had to respond to, so I thought it was a very useful exercise,” Morelle said after the forum.

One of the participants in Saturday’s conversation was Anthony DeSanctis, who said that although he didn’t come from the same political background as Morelle, who is a Democrat, he found it interesting that people from both major political parties are not really all that far apart on some issues. But he would have liked to see greater diversity in the ages of people who showed up.

“It would have been great to see some younger people here too because I’m an older 50s year old guy, I’m sure they don’t think the way I think, so it would have been nice to see some of the younger kids here as well,” DeSanctis said.

Howard Konar, who founded Common Ground Solutions, hopes that these forums can eventually spread to all of the congressional districts around the nation. He is glad the discussion part of this exercise limits the number of people who are part of the forum.

“I think people felt comfortable expressing what was on their minds and it was a good group," Konar said. "Maybe if there were 100 or 200 people it might not work as well, but in a group of around 50 I think it was just about right.”

Konar was pleased with the way the conversation developed and said that “it shows that people are following the news, and they’re engaged.”

Randy Gorbman is WXXI News director.

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