Given the abysmal reports on illegal immigration flying around the country, one could easily come to the assumption that all Americans are opposed to the undocumented. However, as the Pew Research Center revealed this week, this could not be further from the truth.

The reality is that a whopping 72 percent of Americans support a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants, if they pay a fine, have jobs and pass background checks.

This is especially true since, as the center also revealed, the undocumented population has dropped from the much-bandied-about number of 12 million to about 11.2 million. The recent decrease followed a two-decade period of growth and comes on the heels of reduced flows into the United States from Mexico.

The support among Latinos for comprehensive immigration reform is higher still, in the upper 80th percentile, a factor that will become a major campaign issue leading into the 2012 presidential elections.

There is no denying that most rational Americans, whether native-born or naturalized citizens, support a pathway to legalization for the undocumented, especially since, as the Pew research found, these are not people who have just come over the border or into the country.

As Pew researchers discovered from analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s March 2010 Current Population Survey, nearly two-thirds of the 10.2 million unauthorized adult immigrants in the United States have lived in this country for at least 10 years, and nearly half are parents of minors.

The undocumented also make up 28 percent of the country’s foreign-born population and 3.7 percent of the overall population, making up a significant part of the country. But most importantly, the Pew Hispanic Center’s analysis finds that 35 percent of unauthorized adult immigrants have resided in the United States for 15 years or more; 28 percent for 10 to 14 years; 22 percent for five to nine years; and 15 percent for less than five years.

Further, at least 9 million people are in “mixed status” families that include at least one unauthorized adult and at least one U.S.-born child, and there are 400,000 unauthorized immigrant children in such families who have U.S.-born siblings.

These are generally moral, law-abiding, hard-working people, not the harsh criminals the right wingers and blue dog Democrats believe are part of the undocumented populace. It is for this reason that the humane approach for President Barack Obama and lawmakers would be to grant legal status to these immigrants.

It is not only the humane but the right thing to do for a people who are already a large part of the fabric of this country and keep the economic engines turning smoothly. Without their labor, many industries, including farming, will be affected-as we’ve already seen in states like Alabama.

Most Americans get this; now the lawmakers really need to listen.

The writer is founder of NewsAmericasNow, CaribPR Wire and Hard Beat Communications.