Does Giving Immigrants Citizenship Improve Assimilation and Civic Participation?

 

shutterstock_155168414_SwissPassportYou wouldn’t know it by listening to Donald Trump, but rounding up and deporting — humanely, according to Trump — some 11 million undocumented/unauthorized/illegal immigrants would be pretty pricey. Lots of different estimates, but maybe anywhere from $100 billion to $600 billion, if preventing future illegal entry is also included.

Legal status for many or most undocumented immigrants already in the US seems more likely. One potential compromise is legalization without citizenship. Immigration expert Peter Skerry has outlined a plan for “permanent non-citizen resident” status. These immigrants would be prohibited from ever becoming eligible for naturalization — unlike green card holders — but they would have full access to the labor market. And that may be enough for most of the undocumented. Skerry notes that a quarter century after the 1980s amnesty, only 41 percent of the nearly 2.7 million individuals who became legal permanent residents had gone on to exercise the option to naturalize. In other words, when offered the chance to become citizens, the overwhelming majority of the undocumented have settled for less.

So normalization without citizenship. And with normalization would hopefully come assimilation. Yet does citizenship itself spur greater assimilation and civic participation? Ars Technica highlights a natural experiment in Switzerland suggesting “immigrants who gain citizenship in their new countries go on to have improved integration into the fabric of that country.”

Apparently Swiss municipalities used to decide on citizenship applications through a secret ballot vote, a practice that ended in 2003. I know, weird. Anyway, what researchers did was compare outcomes a decade later among applicants who barely passed or failed the vote, assuming their characteristics were pretty similar. And the findings, as summarized by Ars Technica reporter Cathleen O’Grady:

When they surveyed these immigrants a decade later, they found that those whose applications were only just approved had significantly higher political integration than those who had only just failed. These people had increased political knowledge, were more likely to feel that they had a political voice, and were more likely to participate in politics through actions like voting, contacting politicians, or donating to political parties. This was consistent even for immigrants from different countries.

Because the survey was conducted in 2011-2014, which was a decade or more since the last citizenship votes in Switzerland, the researchers suggest that the results are picking up on genuine, long-term changes. It’s possible that immigrants might have a spike in their political participation after a successful application, but a temporary change is unlikely to have continued for a decade or more, they argue. … Given that social and political integration of immigrants is often something that policies explicitly aim to encourage, this is important information. Although a natural experiment like this would be difficult to find in other countries, future research will need to confirm whether the same effect seems to be consistent in different countries with different immigration procedures.

Of course, Switzerland is very different from America. Of course, of course, of course. But maybe the results would be even better here given how accepting of immigrants were are generally. I found this comment about the study — found on a different site — interesting:

When I got my lovely red passport after following all of the rules for 12 years, I proudly showed it to some Swiss colleagues. Instead of saying “Welcome to the Swiss Club” as I expected, I got “you are paper Swiss,” “you are not real Swiss,” “you bought your passport.” Until attitudes like this change, then Swiss citizens will never integrate fully with Swiss nationals.

I think that person is likely to have experienced a different reaction had he or she become an American citizen, yes?

There are 15 comments.

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  1. BuckeyeSam Inactive
    BuckeyeSam
    @BuckeyeSam

    Are illegal immigrants who carry either fabricated identities or stolen identities entitled to be characterized by the laughable euphemism of undocumented immigrants?

    Why is the discussion regarding illegal immigrants always centered, first, on how we are going to legalize illegal immigrants? Why isn’t it instead centered, first, on the lengths to which we will go to expel those who have committed crimes and who have any gang affiliation whatsoever? Why is the prospect of self-deportation completely ignored? And why can’t the cost of deportation be imposed on those who are deported?

    One thing Democrats seem very good at is establishing nonsense “nonprofit” organizations that devote themselves to energizing illegal immigrants and others to argue for legalization. And once legalized, the push will come for citizenship because there’s gold at the end of that rainbow. Enjoy the one-party state.

    • #1
  2. Dave Carter Podcaster
    Dave Carter
    @DaveCarter

    James, how many seconds do you think will elapse before the left starts screaming that these legalized non-citizens must be made into citizens because, “in America, there are no second class citizens,” and they accuse contrary opinions of having their roots in Jim Crow? How many nano-seconds do you think will elapse before Republicans cave? And how many seconds do you think will elapse after millions of them become citizens before demographics renders the Republican Party utterly irrelevant?

    • #2
  3. iDad Inactive
    iDad
    @iDad

    Dave Carter:James, how many seconds do you think will elapse before the left starts screaming that these legalized non-citizens must be made into citizens because, “in America, there are no second class citizens,” and they accuse contrary opinions of having their roots in Jim Crow?How many nano-seconds do you think will elapse before Republicans cave?And how many seconds do you think will elapse after millions of them become citizens before demographics renders the Republican Party utterly irrelevant?

    And the cost of that transformation will dwarf $600 billion.

    • #3
  4. Bob W Member
    Bob W
    @WBob

    BuckeyeSam:Are illegal immigrants who carry either fabricated identities or stolen identities entitled to be characterized by the laughable euphemism of undocumented immigrants?

    Why is the discussion regarding illegal immigrants always centered, first, on how we are going to legalize illegal immigrants? Why isn’t it instead centered, first, on the lengths to which we will go to expel those who have committed crimes and who have any gang affiliation whatsoever? Why is the prospect of self-deportation completely ignored? And why can’t the cost of deportation be imposed on those who are deported?

    One thing Democrats seem very good at is establishing nonsense “nonprofit” organizations that devote themselves to energizing illegal immigrants and others to argue for legalization. And once legalized, the push will come for citizenship because there’s gold at the end of that rainbow. Enjoy the one-party state.

    The misconception that never goes away is that we MUST choose between either mass deportation or mass legalization of all illegals.  As if not doing one or the other is unthinkable and unjust.  If this were a real necessity, then you can see how many would lean toward some kind of compromise, like James’s idea above, “normalization without citizenship”. But it’s not a necessity. Why should it be?

    • #4
  5. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    “rounding up and deporting — humanely, according to Trump — some 11 million undocumented/unauthorized/illegal immigrants would be pretty pricey”

    I’m going to just pass over the supposed number of 11 million.  I’ve been hearing that 11 million number for at least 20 years now, as if hundreds of thousands more have not been pouring across the border every year, and as if there was ever any basis for that number in the first place.

    But let’s talk about the “pricey” part.  The feat of transporting this number of people across the border is so logistically complex that they were able to come in the other direction with nothing more than the aid of a few coyotes driving rickety vans through the desert.  If the United States government is incapable of replicating such a feat, then hire the coyotes and let them take care of it.

    • #5
  6. Mike LaRoche Inactive
    Mike LaRoche
    @MikeLaRoche

    $600 billion? Spend the money. The alternative – loss of national identity, cultural unity, and personal safety – will be far more expensive.

    • #6
  7. RyanFalcone Member
    RyanFalcone
    @RyanFalcone

    Supposedly, 40% of these people have overstayed their visas right? Just put them back on planes or whatever they came in on and send them on their way and charge them for the expense. Fine anyone who is caught having hired an illegal. The fine is the cost of incarcerating, trying and transporting the criminal back to where they came from.

    Beyond this, if employers know they will get nailed for it, they will stop hiring these people. Once that happens, maybe half these folks will leave on their own.

    A law should be passed that anyone who is sent out by force is expelled for life.

    • #7
  8. Joseph Eagar Member
    Joseph Eagar
    @JosephEagar

    I don’t see how this is at all relevant to American politics.  Immigration politics have been absorbed by the larger class conflict we have going on.  You can’t expect voters to trust your good faith when the political class is acting in ways that excludes them, and their children, from society.

    The GOP would be better served going after the black vote.  Don’t forget, there was once a time when the Democrats bought off the Scotts Irish vote, and yet now many of them vote GOP.  The Dem’s electoral model is to concentrate on one ‘favorite’ ethnic group; when they move on from that group, they tend to loose their grip on it.  And they have moved on; I think it’s pretty clear that Hispanics are the new favorite.  This gives us a shot at blacks.

    • #8
  9. Roadrunner Inactive
    Roadrunner
    @Roadrunner

    It is not a mystery how our new citizens will vote and what that means for conservative and libertarian ideas as well as basic freedoms.  Four out of the nine Supreme Court Justices were willing to limit political speech.  This is a result of previous immigration.  What else might be pruned from our Bill of Rights with just five Justices?  The other problem is the consequence of adding even more tribes to a race obsessed political system.  This is playing with the worst aspects of human nature in a totally thoughtless fashion.

    • #9
  10. Marion Evans Inactive
    Marion Evans
    @MarionEvans

    Be careful what you wish for. If we deport them (unlikely as that may be), we may have a labor shortage and wage inflation. At least until the robots can take over.

    • #10
  11. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Mike LaRoche:$600 billion? Spend the money. The alternative – loss of national identity, cultural unity, and personal safety – will be far more expensive.

    Have we really had any kind of loss of national Identity that we can really point to as definitive and detrimental? I know here in Chicago old ethnic neighborhoods have lost their original ethnic enclaves, the great example being the Pilsen neighborhood which despite its name is now the heart of the Mexican community here. That certainly is a change, but really it seems like a lateral one.

    Cultural unity, is an interesting concern. Certainly America has always faced great cultural strains, propagated by our size and heterogeneity. Is what we face today really worse than the historical average. Second of all taking such direct actions like deportation I would imagine will exacerbate tensions, certainly in the near term.

    I can’t really speak to personal safety. I do recall you live in an area where there is a lot of human trafficking. The illegal nature of the process though specifically draws forth more violence into the system of migration than there otherwise would be. It also seems to me that with few exceptions most illegal immigrants are not striving to come here to commit further crimes. Better policing of their neighborhoods and localities would help to repress the negative elements that come along. It took us nearly 80 years to really get good at battling Italian organized crime.

    • #11
  12. TKC1101 Inactive
    TKC1101
    @TKC1101

    So America has finally come to this. “We know you want to preserve the country and defend the borders and allow citizenship to have meaning, but it seems expensive so we are going with the banana republic model instead”

    Nonsense.

    Can we submit the deportation process to the private sector and get some bids?  Preferably  without unions involved to require ‘prevailing wage’.

    Can we attach some priority to deportation, starting with felons, then multiple misdemeanors? Take five years and clean out all felons and stop illegal returns (automatic felony) and then see what’s left?

    Remove all illegals from any form of Federal welfare. The states can be stupid on their own dime.

    Fine any employer who employs illegals for five times their annual salary for each year they worked, with a five year minimum. Add jail time for business owners for flagrant violations.

    Once that is done, any illegal who can get ten American citizens with fixed address and assets over $50,000 to sign a petition allowing them to stay can petition each state for residence with the proviso they are ineligible for citizenship and if they commit a felony or cannot support themselves, the $500,000 bond the ten people pledged their assets on will be forfeit and used to defray cost of assistance and or deportation.

    If a US citizen commits a crime, they can be released on a bond, why do illegal aliens not have to bond themselves out?

    Notice this process deals with adults only, not the children, sick, or disabled.

    Or, we can go with the banana republic, never close the border, dilute citizenship to showing up and enjoy the squalor. Let’s save some money.

    • #12
  13. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    The two groups of migrants to Switzerland may have similar characteristics, but they’re marked by two profoundly different experiences in this context:

    • Acceptance
    • Rejection

    .

    It seems obvious that rejection (by popular vote no less) after applying for citizenship would make people less inclined to integrate and participate than they would otherwise be.

    • #13
  14. San Joaquin Sam Inactive
    San Joaquin Sam
    @SanJoaquinSam

    Well that settles it.  Preserving cultural unity and enforcing the law is far too expensive so we’re just gonna have to institute this convoluted legal regime to create a separate group of citizens that won’t ever assimilate into the broader culture…which will be far more cost effective.  Questions?

    • #14
  15. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton
    @KevinCreighton

    I’ve lived in the U.S. for 30+ years, and while I am still not a citizen, I think I’m pretty much assimilated now.

    On a semi-related note, it boggles my mind that some politicians are telling us that government can’t remove 20 million illegal residents from our country but yet can remove 300 million legal guns.

    Good luck with that.

    • #15

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