By Scott Bland
Updated: June 26, 2013 | 6:20 a.m.
June 25, 2013 | 9:59 p.m.

As eight senators huddled behind closed doors to craft a bipartisan and comprehensive immigration-reform bill, South Carolinians began seeing television ads bashing Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham for his involvement. “Who elected Graham to demand amnesty and welfare for millions of illegal aliens?” a faceless voice asked in the February ad paid for by advocacy group NumbersUSA.

Who would get welfare and other benefits under immigration reform is a complicated and still-unanswered question, with Congress far from done debating immigration legislation. But what Americans think of the idea is suddenly much clearer.

According to the latest United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll, more than two-thirds of all Americans and nine out of every 10 Republicans oppose making legalized immigrants “eligible for government benefits … before they become citizens,” confirming the issue’s potency as one of the main political attacks against immigration reform supporters in 2014.

NumbersUSA’s February ad against Graham may have been an early shot, but given how strongly the message tests, it seems sure to crop up again — assuming attention remains focused on the issue.

Overall, 77 percent of respondents opposed making government benefits available to legalized (but noncitizen) immigrants.

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