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.