Top Pro & Con Arguments


A path that stops short of citizenship would be a more appropriate and humane approach to undocumented immigrants.

Offering a legal status without the possibility of citizenship would address the reality of the American illegal immigration problem with a workable solution. More than 10 million undocumented immigrants live in the United States without TPS [Temporary Protected Status], a number that is impossible to locate and process for either deportation or other legal action. [61] [65]

As Dr. Ashley Nunes, a research scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Transportation and Logistics, argues, “A more pragmatic solution would be to offer a path to legalization that stops short of citizenship. That would meet the humanitarian imperative to keep families together. But it would also hold those who have violated immigration laws accountable for their actions…. Except for those who were born on American soil, citizenship is not a right. It’s a privilege. A path short of citizenship sends a powerful message to America’s legal-immigrant community, whose members have worked tirelessly to follow existing immigration guidelines. There is a rule of law, and citizenship is granted to those who follow it.” [66]

One option, suggested by the libertarian Cato Institute, is a tiered legalization process. Undocumented immigrants would have the ability to pay a fee to obtain a work permit that requires a fee-based renewal, allowing them to work and live in the US legally, travel abroad and return to the US, and otherwise legally participate in American society. They would not be able to vote, access welfare or other entitlements, or apply for citizenship. Most undocumented immigrants would choose this path instead of a more expensive path to citizenship based on data from the IRCA. [65]

Another option is rolling legalization. Undocumented immigrants who have been in the country for more than 10 years could apply for legalization without a path to citizenship, and immigration enforcement would only deport more recently arrived immigrants. Law enforcement could then more efficiently target a smaller population while sending a message to potential immigrants that American laws will be enforced. [65]

Immigration policies like these would promote legal immigration and confront the reality of a large undocumented population, while not rewarding illegal activity that could promote still more illegal crossings or overstays. [65]

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