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You 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?