Should There Be a Path to Citizenship?

I had a piece over the weekend in the San Francisco Chronicle with that title and thought it might be useful to spark discussion at Ricochet. The issue at hand is not whether we should focus on enforcing immigration laws or legalize the illegals — important though that is, I’m after something different.

What I’d like to get people’s thoughts on is whether we should have large numbers of foreigners living in the United States in some status that doesn’t eventually make them eligible for citizenship? I, for instance, am for only one kind of amnesty, a narrow version of the DREAM Act, a DREAM 2.0 that would legalize illegal immigrants who’ve lived here since they were infants or toddlers (not those who arrived as teenagers, which the current version would include), so long as it included enforcement provisions and prevented the downstream immigration of their relatives. But, unlike Senator Marco Rubio’s idea last year to give DREAMers permanent status but not access to citizenship, I think anyone we do end up amnestying needs to be fully integrated into the American people.

It’s not just amnestied illegals who are involved. Each year, we take hundreds of thousands of long-term , often de facto permanent, guestworkers and any noxious bill passed by the scoundrels in Congress would likely provide for the admission of even more. We need fewer foreign workers, far fewer than now, but anyone we do admit from abroad to live among us permanently (as opposed to short visits or study) ought to be admitted only on condition that he sees himself, and is seen by us, as a future member of the American people. (I elaborated on this a few years back here.)

The permanent non-citizen option has some non-stupid arguments in its favor and has been recommended, for amnestied illegals specifically, by my friend Boston College political science professor Peter Skerry in the current issue of National Affairs. But, in the end, America should be a republic of citizens, and there’s no place in such a model for a millions-strong population of permanent residents permanently barred from becoming members of the body politic.

  1. WI Con

    I’d include people that have served in our military. I’m open to a path for workers (emphasis on ‘workers’- no/very little history of public aid, lawbreaking, H.S. diploma or better).

    I’m worried about the assimilation of these populations but with the multi-culti atmosphere that now exists, I’m not seeing a big difference between populations that are here illegally and those granted citizenship by being born here. It’s aggravating how this problem/issue is foisted on us vs. asking what they expect. Too often, you’ll see reported or listen to advocates state that they aren’t asking for amnesty. Then what do they want & expect? Do you expect public aid whenever asked for? Free health care? Do you expect citizenship for any children born here? Do you expect the state to educate you & your children? Do you expect in-state tuition & fees? Do you expect Soc. Security & Medicare? Public Housing? Do you expect not to have car & business insurance?

    This whole thing feels like the Fiscal Cliff negotiations – we’re negotiating with ourselves.  

  2. Pelayo

    I would grant citizenship to those who serve in our military and those who obtain at least a 4-year degree from a U.S. university in a STEM major area of study.  For everyone else I like the permanent non-citizen option.  The last thing we need is more “takers” taking advantage of our generous welfare programs.  Those people would certainly vote to keep Liberal Democrats in power forever.

  3. Tsunami Blue

    I was illegal in the US for 3 years (I’m Canadian). It was uncomfortable and unpleasant things happened but I felt that was fair because I wasn’t supposed to be here. Then I spent countless hours and $5,000 obtaining legal status (they forgave me my earlier overstay), and a further countless hours getting my citizenship 7 years later. I know several Malaysian, Chinese and  Burmese engineers who are working for  below market wages and spending thousands of dollars and years to be legal here. We are united in feeling like suckers for having gone to the trouble and expense. It engenders contempt for Americans, to be so naive and have such a weak will to defend our borders. I, and many immigrants like me, feel that this is the best civilization mankind has managed to ever put together, but those born into it don’t seem to understand how extraordinarily special and fragile it is.

  4. Majestyk

    No Citizenship for people who’ve flouted our immigration laws in order to Jump the Line.

    Permanent residency, as in you NEVER get to vote or receive benefits but we won’t throw you out so long as you pay your taxes and don’t break the law further, but never Citizenship.

  5. Joseph Paquette

    Pathway to legal residency, but not citizenship.  This is a logical penalty for breaking the law.   All rights and priveleges, SSI (if you worked your requried years on the books), etc.  All rights and priveleges except citizenship (so, no voting).   If becoming a citizen is that important to someone, they can go home and come through the process legally. 

  6. Joseph Paquette
    Tommy De Seno: Closed and militarized border first, then we start the discussion on what to do with the folks who are here. · 2 hours ago

    Too expensive and not practical in a free society.  Tourist and student visas alone mean we have an open border.  

  7. Joseph Paquette
    Mario the Gator: I would grant citizenship to those who serve in our military and those who obtain at least a 4-year degree from a U.S. university in a STEM major area of study.  For everyone else I like the permanent non-citizen option.  The last thing we need is more “takers” taking advantage of our generous welfare programs.  Those people would certainly vote to keep Liberal Democrats in power forever. · 58 minutes ago

    Not frequently mentioned by democrats, military service already grants a pathway to citizenship.  

  8. Astonishing
    Mark Krikorian: . . . .

    . . . I, for instance, am for only one kind of amnesty, a narrow version of the DREAM Act, a DREAM 2.0 that would legalize illegal immigrants who’ve lived here since they were infants or toddlers (not those who arrived as teenagers, which the current version would include) . . . .

    . . .  in the end, America should be a republic of citizens, and there’s no place in such a model for a millions-strong population of permanent residents permanently barred from becoming members of the body politic.

    As a practical matter, you cannot reconcile the above two statements.

    Your core agenda is akin to promoting policies to prohibit hurricanes from entering the Gulf of Mexico. You say, “It will work if only they would try it.”

    If it will make you feel better, I could humor you a little way, by replying ”Yes, I suppose it might work, but they never will try it.”

  9. Instugator
    Astonishing

    …Why should we allow economic freedom, when people make so many choices we don’t like? · 7 hours ago

    Edited 6 hours ago

    Loved it.

  10. iWc

    I think we ought to have MORE immigration. But start by eliminating the 30-40+ different labyrinthine tracks that exist now. And replace them as follows:

    Everyone outside the country who has demonstrated assets of >$X million, AND who passes a TOEFL (English test), AND who commits to American ideals is admitted, with a passport within 2 years. No limits. We could use millions of entrepreneurs.

    Everyone inside the country illegally is offered the following deal:

    For 10 years, the recipient and their family agrees:

    A: NO Federal benefits whatsoever (states can make their own calls)

    B: Taxes paid.

    C: No felony convictions

    And at the end of 10 years, they get citizenship. This is not a reward for breaking the law. It is allowing people to make good.

    Anyone who does not sign up within a given amnesty window (say, 3-6 months) to be expelled. Offer a $1k bounty for each illegals reported, with tipoffs kept confidential.

  11. Fake John Galt

    Does it matter how I feel? The illegals are going to get amnesty and thus rewarded for breaking the law. There will be promises to close the border, better immigration law and better enforcement that will cost more money and be less effective than what is currently in place. 20 years or so down the road this same discussion will be happening, because we will have millions more illegals than ever before. I have seen all this before.

  12. Johnny Dubya

    Why should there be a “path to citizenship” for people in this country illegally at this particular moment in history? What is so unique and important about this particular cohort? What happens when a new illegal cohort amasses itself? Will we have more paths to citizenship, as far as the eyes can see? Why should we reward those who have flouted our laws? Isn’t that manifestly unfair to those who have followed the rules? What does that say about us as a society? Why shouldn’t we be the ones who decide whom we want to admit? Why should we allow any immigration of unskilled or low-skill workers while the unemployment rate is so high? Why should we allow chain migration? Why should the entire family–parents, uncles, cousins–of an immigrant be allowed citizenship with little or no consideration given to what they can offer the U.S.? Why does one have to pussy-foot around the topic of illegal immigration when talking to Hispanic citizens? Don’t they care about laws? Why is the truism “we are a nation of immigrants” considered a sufficient argument for unfettered immigration? Why are these questions considered “rude” and not worthy of a “national conversation”?

  13. iWc
    Kevin Walker: Why should there be a “path to citizenship” for people in this country illegally at this particular moment in history?

    Because every criminal not on death row has a pathway to redemption.

    It is national ideal that we believe people, by legally following their self interest, can improve and better themselves and those around them. It is an essential part of being American.

  14. Johnny Dubya

    A hiker who accidentally strays over the Iran border is immediately picked up, thrown in prison, and made the subject of an international incident. Why can’t we control our border like the Iranians control theirs?

  15. Johnny Dubya

    Why do we say the immigration system is “broken” when the problem is lack of enforcement of existing laws? If I don’t turn on my furnace when it gets cold, does that mean that it’s “broken”?

  16. Johnny Dubya
    iWc

    Kevin Walker: Why should there be a “path to citizenship” for people in this country illegally at this particular moment in history?

    Because every criminal not on death row has a pathway to redemption.

    It is national ideal that we believe people, by legally following their self interest, can improve and better themselves and those around them. It is an essential part of being American. · 17 minutes ago

    You seem to be advocating for always allowing illegal immigrants a “path to citizenship” (i.e., an extraordinary path by “cutting the line”), now and in the future.  At least that is consistent, compared to others who advocate amnesty for this particular cohort, but not future cohorts, which makes no sense.  I would argue, however, that “legally following one’s self interest” involves self deportation and application for citizenship through the usual channels.  That is the path to citizenship.

  17. Johnny Dubya
    Instugator

    Astonishing

    …Why should we allow economic freedom, when people make so many choices we don’t like? · 7 hours ago

    Edited 6 hours ago

    Loved it. · 2 hours ago

    Then, by all means, let’s open the borders to unskilled workers, drug addicts, criminals, Islamists, and anyone else who is exercising their “economic freedom”.  It’s ridiculous to assume this is “our” country.  It is, in fact, theirs, and anyone else’s who wishes to come across the border, even illegally.

    <sarcasm/off>  What if people exercising their “economic freedom” causes economic and cultural collapse?  Is that not something we should be concerned about?

  18. Paul DeRocco

    I’m with you, Mark, about Dream 2.0. As to the adult illegals, I’m in favor of giving them a path to citizenship, as long as they “go to the end of the line”. To do that, no legislation is necessary, because they can already do that. For Mexican illegals, the end of the line is back in Mexico. They can go back across the border, and then apply for entry and citizenship without revealing that they’ve already lived here, and wait.

  19. Ross C

    I can certainly understand the many points of view on this issues.  Especially folks who have jumped through the various hoops required to be legal.  Like our president though I am evolving on this issue.

    My view is that we do need a path to legalization beyond what we have.  This could be from open borders to amnesty to a guest worker program (which would legalize illegals without the messy swearing in and welfare benefits).  I would probably start out with the guest worker program and offer citizenship after a relatively long period of probation.

    What we have now is quite problematic for Republicans going forward, so we are going to get it either way.  Best to try an neutralize the advantage it gives Democrats and pray the free trade elevates the Mexican (and global) economy to the point where their standard of living improves.

  20. Astonishing
    Kevin Walker:  . .  Why should we allow any immigration of unskilled or low-skill workers while the unemployment rate is so high?   . . .

    Why should we allow unskilled foreign workers to sell their labor to American businesses when unemployment is so high?

    Why should we allow American businesses to hire unskilled foreign w0rkers when so many Americans are out of work?

    Why should we allow foreign companies to sell products to American consumers when American companies’ sales are so low?

    Why should we allow Americans consumers to buy foreign goods when so many American factories are closing down?

    Why should we allow foreign women to marry American men when so many American women can’t find a mate?

    Why should we allow American readers to buy foreign books when so many American books go unsold?

    Why should we allow American people to think foreign thoughts when so many American thoughts are ignored?

    Why should we allow economic freedom, when people make so many choices we don’t like?

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