Issue Report: Path to citizenship for illegal immigrants in the US

Background and context

A path to citizenship is a proposal in the United States to help deal with illegal immigration and the existence of an estimated 15 million illegal immigrants within US borders. It would allow illegal immigrants to remain in the Unites States, instead of deporting them, while they are given an opportunity to apply for US citizenship, meeting requirements such as language skills and, in some cases, paying a fee for having immigrated illegally. Advocates consider it the most realistic way of dealing with this population, arguing that it is infeasible to deport all 15 million illegal immigrants. They also contend that it is the most civilized approach, avoiding splitting up families and neighborhoods over forced deportation, and that it helps sustain industries that have come to rely on these workers. Opponents contend that it rewards illegal immigrants, disrespects those that have come to the country legally, undermines the integrity of US laws, and encourages further illegal immigration. The Bush administration attempted to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2006, which included a fairly strict path to citizenship, requiring that illegals demonstrate that they had paid their taxes while residing in the US, that they pay a fine for having broken the law, and that they go through the regular, lengthy channels for becoming a citizen, albeit while being allowed to remain in the country. While legislation failed to pass then, in 2010 the topic arose once again as large immigration rallies were conducted on the National Mall and as Arizona passed highly controversial anti-illegal immigrant legislation in April of 2010. Many have called for comprehensive immigration reform, and debate continued to revolve around whether to include a path to citizenship.

Principle: Is a path to citizenship a principled move?

US cannot be a nation of permanent illegal immigrants

Jared Bernstein. "Path to citizenship and out of poverty." Economic Policy Institute. June 29, 2006

“The policy implications should be obvious. We must not let ourselves become a nation of permanent illegal immigrants, who toil in the shadows; nor should we become a nation of ‘guest workers.’ We are a nation of immigrants who have trodden the path toward citizenship. A central goal of reform should be to clear that path for those who deserve the privileges, economic and otherwise, of being an American citizen.”

Citizenship is great opportunity; grant it to those already here.

Consider being a part of another country which would treat you… “unwell”. Where would you go? Certainly somewhere near your border, so what would the choice be? You will definitely choose the U.S. since it is a free country and for immigrants this is a great opportunity to get out of their past lives and make a new one, despite the fact that this is attained through desperate matters what you people call “Illegal Immigration”. So why don’t we give these people a shot at what they want, give them the rights of any American citizen? If America really is the land of the free, why can’t we share some of that freedom?

Path to citiz. puts illegals through citiz. process w/o deportation

George W. Bush, MBA, 43rd President of the United States, in an Aug. 3, 2006

“The best plan is to say to somebody who has been here illegally, if you’ve been paying your taxes, and you’ve got a good criminal record, that you can pay a fine for being here illegally, and you can learn English, like the rest of us have done, and you can get in a citizenship line to apply for citizenship. You don’t get to get in the front, you get to get in the back of the line. But this idea of deporting people is just not — it doesn’t make any sense to me, and it doesn’t make any sense to a lot of people who understand this issue. So here’s a reasonable way to treat people with respect and accomplish what we want to accomplish, which is to be a country of law and a country of decency and respect.”

"The best plan is to say to somebody who has been here illegally, if you've been paying your taxes, and you've got a good criminal record, that you can pay a fine for being here illegally, and you can learn English, like the rest of us have done, and you can get in a citizenship line to apply for citizenship. You don't get to get in the front, you get to get in the back of the line. But this idea of deporting people is just not -- it doesn't make any sense to me, and it doesn't make any sense to a lot of people who understand this issue. So here's a reasonable way to treat people with respect and accomplish what we want to accomplish, which is to be a country of law and a country of decency and respect."

The American Federation of Labor - Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), in a Feb. 16, 2000 website section titled "The AFL-CIO Calls for Amnesty"

“Millions of hard-working people who make enormous contributions to their communities and workplace are denied basic human rights because of their undocumented status… The AFL-CIO supports a new amnesty program that would allow these members of local communities to adjust their status to permanent residents and become eligible for naturalization.”

Path to citizenship respects dignity of the undocumented

The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), in its website section titled "About AFSC" (accessed Oct. 1, 2007), stated

“Programs on immigration are based on our conviction of the worth and inherent dignity of all people. That’s why AFSC has consistently expressed support for undocumented immigrants, and has repeatedly called on the US government to grant permanent residency to all undocumented men, women, and children.”

General statements in favor of a path to citizenship

A path to citizenship grants amnesty to criminals

Illegal immigrants are criminals. They have broken US law. Why should they be given any special favors? They should treated like criminals, found, charged, jailed, and deported. It’s simply a matter of enforcing the law.

Path to citizenship sends message that breaking laws is OK

Randy Neugebauer, US Representative (R-TX), in a July 2, 2007 website section titled "Randy's Roundups,"

“Amnesty is bad policy and sends the message that immigrants are better off breaking our laws rather than respecting them.”

Path to citizenship disrespects legal immigrants

James Sensenbrenner, JD, US House Representative (R-WI), in a Mar. 27, 2006 Bristol Herald Courier article titled "James Sensenbrenner Not Deterred by Immigration Protests"

“illegal aliens should not be granted amnesty and a path to citizenship. This would be a slap in the face to all those who have followed the law and have come to America legally.”

Path to citizenship disadvantages prospective legal immigrants

John Jacob, Owner of John D. Jacob Land Surveying Services, while being a 2006 U.S. congressional Republican candidate in Utah, in a June 25, 2006 Deseret News article entitled "John Jacob's Responses to News Candidate Questionnaire"

“[Amnesty] is a mass-pardon for lawbreakers and serves as a disadvantage to those who are legally seeking the American dream.”

Path to citizenship exists: leave and apply legally

Dave Gibson. "Despite the lies…A 'path to citizenship' already exists." March 14th, 2010

“Those politicians and advocacy groups who continue to push for a so-called ‘path to citizenship’ for illegal aliens, ignore the fact that there is already such a ‘path’ and it has been successfully taken by millions. Of course, it is not quick, and it does not reward criminals. [it’s the legal way].” Dave suggests that illegal immigrants leave and apply like everybody else, through the ordinary path to citizenship.

Illegal immigrants do more harm than good; deport them.

Illegal immigrants undoubtably bring many benefits to the US. However, they bring much more harm than good. They increase the poverty rate in the areas they live in. They most likely are a bad influence on the Americans they live near with. They come to the US illegally and beg for legal citizenship so they can get rights they don’t deserve. They came to here illegally and want citizenship so that they can have rights and abuse the US system. They decrease the morale of the parts they live in because of discrimination and also because of the suspicion, the fear they bring in because of their image of being criminals and drug dealers. Why should we grant them citizenship when they’re here first illegaly?

Statements against path to citizenship for illegal immigrants

Todd Schnitt, who often discusses immigration policy on the Schnitt Show, said in a phone interview with KOMO News

“Everybody who broke into this country illegally knows they broke into this country illegally, and they’ve been siphoning off our system. […] I’m all for immigration. We’re a country of immigrants that came to this country legally. […] [But,] I don’t believe in amnesty. We need to send them back to their home countries, and then they can reapply, get in line, and enter this country legally.”

Illegal immigration: Does a path to citizenship help reduce illegal immigration?

Path to citizenship is about earning citizenship

Demetrios Papademetriou, PhD, Co-Founder and President of Migration Policy Institute (MPI)

“we should ask unauthorized immigrants to earn their new legal status. Unauthorized immigrants could begin the regularization process by registering with immigration officials and then be given, say, three years in which to qualify. The criteria for regularization should be forward-looking, easily proven, and consistent with what we as a society consider important. Steady employment, paying taxes, speaking English capably and having a clean criminal record are a good start. And the process should a pay for itself by collecting a substantial but reasonable fee from the immigrants who are regularized.”[8] The difficult conditions of this path to citizenship, which gives illegal aliens no advantages over legal aliens, provides no incentive for illegal immigration over legal immigration.

Path to citizenship encourages illegal immigration

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), in a Jan. 2007 section titled "The Costs of Illegal Immigration to New Jerseyites"

“The proposal to simply convert illegal alien residents to legal resident status with an amnesty violates a fundamental principle of immigration reform, because that will encourage rather than deter future illegal immigration. A policy that conveys the message that the country or any state or local government will tolerate and reward foreigners who ignore our immigration law invites the world to see illegal immigration as an accepted route to seeking a better life in our country and it will exacerbate the problem.”

Deportation: Is mass deportation not an option?

Deportation is not feasible; legalization is only option

Michael R. Bloomberg, MBA, 108th Mayor of the City of New York, in a July 5, 2006

“We need to get real about the people who are now living in this country illegally – in many cases raising families and paying taxes. The idea of deporting these 11 or 12 million people – about as many as live in the entire state of Pennsylvania – is pure fantasy. Even if we wanted to, it would be physically impossible to carry out. If we attempted it – and it would be perhaps the largest round-up and deportation in world history – the social and economic consequences would be devastating. Let me ask you: Would we really want to spend billions of dollars on a round-up and deportation program that would split families in two – only to have these very same people and millions more, illegally enter our country again? Of course not. America is better than that – and smarter than that. There is only one practical solution, and it is a solution that respects the history of our nation: Offer those already here the opportunity to earn permanent status and keep their families together.”

Deporting illegals would be economically damaging

"The GOP's Immigration Fumble." The Wall Street Journal. Aug. 4, 2002

“Deporting them for the duration of the application process would break up families. It also would disrupt businesses that depend on foreign labor for jobs that Americans don’t want… The U.S. needs policies in place that recognize the economic realities that come with a long, porous border between an immensely rich country and a poor one. We need programs that will legalize the status of foreigners who are here already and contributing to our economy. We need more legal channels, such as temporary work programs, to handle future arrivals. And we need to speed up family reunifications.”

Deportation disrupts immigrant families

The Wall Street Journal, in its Aug. 4, 2002 editorial titled "The GOP's Immigration Fumble," offered the following

“Deporting them for the duration of the application process would break up families.”

Illegals should be deported, not given amnesty

Jim Gilchrist, MBA, CPA, Founder and President of The Minuteman Project, in a May 31, 2007 Global Politician interview titled "Jim Gilchrist of Minuteman Project on Immigration, Terror, Elections"

“I’m pro-deportation or if you want to use a nicer word, pro-repatriation. You cannot have a defeatist attitude towards the problem and have a solution. The repatriation of illegals must begin with a recognition of the problem and a plan. We may be called names, but the names our grandchildren will call us will be worse when they have to live in a destroyed country. There must be a multi-faceted approach, including arresting illegals and also cutting off social welfare programs to them.”

Path to citizenship is more difficult than deportation

Joe Guzzardi, English Instructor at Lodi Adult School. "Joe Feels Good About Immigration Bill..." June 2, 2006

“S. 2611 is not administratively manageable. Has anyone wondered how many hundreds of millions of pieces of paper would have to be processed to legalize tens of millions of aliens? Forget it.”

Costs of deportation made up for by savings to taxpayers

Edwin S. Rubenstein, MA, President of Edwin S. Rubenstein (ESR) Research Economic Consultants, in a Jan. 26, 2006 article entitled "No-one’s Suggesting Mass Deportation—But It Would Pay For Itself,"

“even if $206 billion was a reasonable cost estimate, mass deportation would be well worth it. Just consider the economic burden illegal aliens impose on the rest of us… Total fiscal benefits of deportation are thus estimated at $51 billion per year… At this rate, mass deportation would pay for itself in about four years. Plus, of course, we’d get America back.”

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