Last updated on: 6/29/2022 | Author:

Should the US Federal Government Provide a Path to Citizenship for Undocumented Immigrants?

PRO (yes)


Hina Naveed, Aryeh Neier Fellow in the Children’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch, stated:

“I’m one of millions of people in the US whose lives hang in the balance as congressional leaders decide whether to include a pathway to citizenship for immigrant communities….

Undocumented immigrants are vital to the fabric of the US. Many of us risked our lives to keep the economy going, our communities safe, and people healthy during the Covid-19 pandemic. While those who did were designated “essential” workers and hailed as heroes, legally we remained expendable and relegated to a permanent underclass with no pathway to citizenship. This treatment should not continue. Congress needs to take this opportunity to pass immigration reform, transform our outdated and inhumane immigration system, and provide deeply rooted immigrants – including not only DACA recipients like me, but also essential workers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, and others with strong ties to the United States – with a pathway to citizenship, through reconciliation or other means. Our lives, and my future, depend on it.”


Hina Naveed, “US Congress Should Create Pathway to Citizenship,”, Sep. 28, 2021


Giovanni Peri and Reem Zaiour, Professor and PhD student of Economics respectively at the University of California, Davis, stated:

“Undocumented immigrants have long been essential to the nation’s economic growth and prosperity. As the country battled the coronavirus pandemic and economic fallout over the past year, the role of undocumented immigrants… [ensured] the well-being and safety of all Americans… Nearly 3 in 4 undocumented individuals in the workforce—an estimated 5 million—are essential workers. At great risk to themselves and their families, these individuals keep food supply chains running; care for patients in hospitals and support medical systems; maintain the country’s roads and buildings; provide critical care and services for children and the elderly; and educate future generations of Americans. All are critical members of the human infrastructure that powers the nation each day…. [L]egalization and a pathway to citizenship would provide the necessary relief and security for undocumented families and would bring a much-needed boost to the U.S. economy.”


Giovanni Peri and Reem Zaiour, “Citizenship for Undocumented Immigrants Would Boost U.S. Economic Growth,”, June 14, 2021


Laura Collins, Director of the Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute, stated:

“Most undocumented immigrants have lived in the United States for decades. Many have U.S.-citizen children. They fill an important role in our economy, representing around 4.6% of the labor force. These people are our friends, neighbors, relatives, and colleagues — it is in America’s interest to find a reasonable solution for this population. An earned pathway to citizenship, with restitution, allows them to fully assimilate and integrate into the United States without being unfair to those who have waited years for their green card applications to be approved.

The solution for the undocumented must be in the rational middle ground between mass deportation and amnesty. Congress’s continued failure to advance legislation tacitly endorses this unworkable status quo….

Providing a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented population, and a special pathway for Dreamers, is both practical and good policy. It’s unreasonable to deport millions of people who are working, contributing, and positively impacting our communities. It’s also expensive. A 2015 analysis by the American Action Forum found that fully enforcing current immigration law — detaining and deporting every undocumented immigrant in the United States and preventing any new unlawful immigration — would cost $400 billion to $600 billion, decrease GDP by almost $1 trillion, contract the economy by 6%, and take 20 years to accomplish.

In addition to the practical considerations, we must consider the larger policy implications of having millions of people who cannot, under our current laws, ever hope to be full participants in American civic life. It is a good thing to have all residents of a country as involved as possible. A democracy with more engaged participants can better reflect the will of its citizens. Active participation strengthens institutions, and a more engaged citizenry is better able to hold its democratically elected representatives to account.”


Laura Collins, “Solutions for Undocumented Immigrants,”, Jan. 19, 2021


Ademola Oyefeso, International Vice President of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, stated:

“Across the country in grocery stores, meatpacking plants, and so many other frontline businesses, immigrants are serving as essential workers helping to keep America’s economy running and communities strong as the pandemic continues. These brave men and women are putting their own health at risk on the frontlines of COVID-19 to keep our food supply secure as they work to build a better life for their family. As these essential workers continue to step up for us when we need them most, it’s more clear than ever that Congress must deliver permanent solutions that protect these hardworking families and provide a pathway to citizenship that will finally bring the stability that our economy and communities need.”


Kalina Newman, “America’s Unions Are Clear and Undaunted: Pathway to Citizenship Is Essential for a Just Recovery,”, Sep. 20, 2021


Tom Jawetz, Vice President of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress, stated:

“Create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and other individuals long residing in the country. This would allow people to come forward, register with the government, pass a background check, and be put on a path to permanent residence and eventual citizenship. Building a functioning immigration system… will go a long way toward ensuring that people no longer have to come into the country outside the law—or remain outside the law—in the future. However, this will do nothing to address the 10.5 million people already here without status who have, on average, lived in the United States for nearly 15 years. It will not help the more than 1 million individuals now protected by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Temporary Protected Status (TPS), or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) who have no path to permanent residence and are living in fear that their temporary reprieve may soon be ripped away. If our collective goal is to create policy that upholds the rule of law in the U.S. immigration system—where we all live by a fair and humane system of rules that is transparent, consistent, and aligned with everyday realities—there can be no question that the nation must provide a path to permanent legal status for those already here. They are full and contributing members of U.S. communities—raising families, paying taxes, and enriching society in myriad ways.”


Tom Jawetz, “Restoring the Rule of Law Through a Fair, Humane, and Workable Immigration System,”, July 22, 2019

CON (no)


The Heritage Foundation stated:

“We must respect the consent of the governed, that is the will of the people. Individuals who are not citizens do not have a right to American citizenship without the consent of the American people.

That consent is expressed through the laws of the United States. Through those laws, we the people invite individuals from other countries, under certain conditions, to join us as residents and fellow citizens….

Our lawmakers must respect the rule of law and immigration is no exception. Failure to enforce our immigration laws is unfair to those who obey the law and follow the rules to enter the country legally. Those who enter and remain in the country illegally should not be rewarded with legal status or other benefits. When politicians condone such behavior they only encourage further illegal conduct.

Based on these principles, immigration reform should include transitioning to a merit-based system. We should end practices like chain migration, birthright citizenship, the visa lottery, arbitrary per-country immigration caps, and any form of amnesty for those here illegally. We must close loopholes that prevent enforcement of our laws and have overwhelmed immigration courts, allowing illegitimate asylum claimants and other lawbreakers to remain in the U.S. indefinitely.”


Heritage Foundation, “What Immigration Reform Should Look Like,” (accessed June 1, 2022)


Lora Ries, Senior Research Fellow for Homeland Security at The Heritage Foundation, stated:

“These proposals would give smugglers and criminal cartels their next advertisement for new illegal immigrant customers.

Promise of amnesty is the single greatest public relations coup for coyotes (smugglers) imaginable. They will use that promise to recruit many tens-of-thousands of illegal immigrants to pay them many tens-of-millions of dollars to try to sneak them, including children, across the border.

Nothing could be more irresponsible and dangerous. All that does is enrich criminal cartels at the expense of American taxpayers….

Americans need policies that would continue to secure all of the border, fight human trafficking and drug cartels, and discourage parents from sending their unaccompanied children on the dangerous journey to the U.S.”


Lora Ries, “Does the US Owe Amnesty to Future Illegal Immigrants?,”, Oct. 26, 2020


Michael Howell, Senior Adviser for Executive Branch Relations with the Heritage Foundation, stated:

“Make no mistake, any legal status conferred on any illegal immigrant in the United States is amnesty, which should be rejected by Americans. Amnesty, or the forgiveness of consequences for illegal immigration, undermines the rule of law and fuels unlawful migration.

We learned this lesson from the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 when over three million illegal residents gained amnesty while the promises for increased border security remain unfulfilled….

Amnesty of any kind increases the incentives for illegal crossings and makes the task of border security much more difficult. Indeed, the initial announcement of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals by Obama precipitated a massive increase in border crossings by unaccompanied minors….

Major corporations, progressive politicians, and open border advocates have sought to undermine our immigration system at every turn because doing so rewards them with cheap labor and more votes. Many of these same forces are at work to sow civil unrest in our cities. They rejoice that riots remain unaddressed by the criminal justice system. The common denominator in these cases is destruction of the rule of law.”


Michael Howell, “Why America Has to Avoid Amnesty,”, July 17, 2020


Matt O’Brien, Director of Research at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), stated:

“Amnesty for illegal aliens is a slippery slope. As any parent, school teacher or police officer knows, rewarding bad behavior only encourages more bad behavior. And much of our current immigration situation is directly attributable to the series of amnesties that began with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). Rather than pushing the reset button, and allowing the United States to regain control of its borders, IRCA sent a clear message to would-be illegal aliens: ‘If you violate our immigration laws long enough, you will be rewarded for your troubles and granted legal status.’”


Matt O’Brien, “Rewarding Bad Behavior Is the Worst Approach to Illegal Immigration,”, Mar. 1, 2018


David Inserra, Policy Analyst for Homeland Security and Cyber PolicyPolicy Analyst for Homeland Security and Cyber Policy at The Heritage Foundation, stated:

“Beyond encouraging more illegal immigration and thus further weakening the immigration system, amnesty legislation is generally an excuse to delay other immigration reforms or improve enforcement….

Fairness and equality under the law are fundamental American principles. Amnesty proposals, however, reward those who have broken the law. Beyond incentivizing additional illegal immigration, amnesty is unfair to all law-abiding Americans, legal immigrants, and those waiting to come legally to the U.S. Instead of jettisoning the rule of law with amnesty, Congress should ensure that immigration best serves the U.S.’s interests and that the immigration system is easier to use and navigate by those seeking legal entry. Ultimately, amnesty unfairly favors those who have broken U.S. laws at the expense of those who obey them….

Amnesty proposals that incentivize more illegal immigration and do not solve the fundamental problems with the U.S. immigration system must be rejected. Congress should fulfill its responsibility—with active cooperation of the executive branch—of achieving a proven and effective enforcement process and a legal immigration system that ensures safe and effective admissions that benefit the United States as a whole.”


David Inserra, “Dreaming of Amnesty: Legalization Will Spur More Illegal Immigration,”, Oct. 30, 2017