Last updated on: 2/28/2017 | Author:

Top 10 Pro & Con Arguments

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

1. Path to Citizenship – Overview

“There are an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently residing in the United States. It is unrealistic and inhumane to deport these individuals from their families and lives in the United States. These immigrants should be offered a path to legal status and eventually earned citizenship. This track to citizenship should be realistic, rather than being so burdensome that it prevents integration. Allowing these immigrants to regularize their status will not only strengthen our national security, but will also stimulate the economy and enhance America’s rich, vibrant, and diverse culture.”

AJC (formerly American Jewish Committee)
“Path to Legalization for Undocumented Immigrants”
(accessed Feb. 9, 2016)

“As Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, I have strongly advocated for immigration reform that focuses on enforcement and upholding the rule of law, including elimination of enforcement waivers that have been abused by previous and current Administrations. To be clear, any immigration reform proposal must first guarantee that our immigration laws are enforced both at the border and within the United States. I remain opposed to amnesty, as I always have been. I do not support a special pathway to citizenship that rewards those who have broken our immigration laws.”

Bob Goodlatte, JD
US Representative (R-VA)
“Immigration Reform”
Goodlatte’s US House of Representatives website
Mar. 1, 2016


2. Path to Citizenship – Economic Security

“Legal status would boost the economy, but the resulting productivity and wage gains would be much higher if the vast majority of the undocumented population are granted citizenship. Researchers found that immigrants who are only eligible for legal status, but not citizenship, would contribute about $832 billion to the economy in a ten year period, add 121,000 more jobs per year, and pay $109 billion in taxes over a ten-year period. Compare that to a scenario where undocumented immigrants are granted legal status and citizenship at the same time, the U.S. GDP would grow by $1.4 trillion over a ten year period, immigrants would help to create an additional 203,0000 jobs per year, and add $184 billion in tax revenue. In another scenario where undocumented immigrants are granted legal status and citizenship after five years, the GDP would grow by $1.1 trillion, there would be an additional 159,000 jobs per year, and add $144 billion in tax revenue.”

Esther Yu-Hsi Lee, MA
Immigration Reporter for ThinkProgress
“Why Citizenship Is Better for America Than Legal Status”
ThinkProgress website
Jan. 31, 2014

“Our national and economic security depend on requiring people who are living and working here illegally to come forward and get right with the law. There will be no special path to citizenship for individuals who broke our nation’s immigration laws – that would be unfair to those immigrants who have played by the rules and harmful to promoting the rule of law. Rather, these persons could live legally and without fear in the U.S., but only if they were willing to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits). Criminal aliens, gang members, and sex offenders and those who do not meet the above requirements will not be eligible for this program. Finally, none of this can happen before specific enforcement triggers have been implemented to fulfill our promise to the American people that from here on, our immigration laws will indeed be enforced.”

John Boehner
Former US Representative (R-OH) and Speaker of the House
“Standards for Immigration Reform”
Jan. 20, 2014


3. Path to Citizenship – Fair Process

“[W]e have to deal with the 11 million individuals who are here illegally. We all agree that these men and women should have to earn their way to citizenship. But for comprehensive immigration reform to work, it must be clear from the outset that there is a pathway to citizenship…We’ve got to lay out a path — a process that includes passing a background check, paying taxes, paying a penalty, learning English, and then going to the back of the line, behind all the folks who are trying to come here legally. That’s only fair, right?…

So that means it won’t be a quick process but it will be a fair process. And it will lift these individuals out of the shadows and give them a chance to earn their way to a green card and eventually to citizenship.”

Barack Obama, JD
44th President of the United States
Remarks at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas
Jan. 29, 2013

“As long as they get to remain in the United States legally, they will have jumped ahead of those in their home countries who are attempting legal entry. The newly legalized illegal immigrants will be able to have children born here that will be given automatic American citizenship, with rights to a multitude of means-tested welfare benefits, and non-means-tested entitlements. These children will become the anchors for future citizenship applications from their parents. These benefits will not accrue to those who remain in their countries while attempting to come here legally.There is only one way to ensure that illegal immigrants go to the back of the line, and that the rule of law is respected. Illegal immigrants must leave the United States without any change in their status under the law beyond what is available to them under present law and present lawful regulations promulgated in compliance with present law.”

Allan J. Favish, JD
“Senator Ted Cruz’s Contradictory Position on Illegal Immigration”
American Thinker website
Mar. 28, 2015


4. Border Fence or Wall

“A nation without borders is not a nation. There must be a wall across the southern border… Mexico must pay for the wall and, until they do, the United States will, among other things: impound all remittance payments derived from illegal wages; increase fees on all temporary visas issued to Mexican CEOs and diplomats (and if necessary cancel them); increases fees on all border crossing cards – of which we issue about 1 million to Mexican nationals each year (a major source of visa overstays); increase fees at ports of entry to the United States from Mexico [Tariffs and foreign aid cuts are also options]. We will not be taken advantage of anymore.”

Donald J. Trump
2016 Presidential Candidate
“Immigration Reform That Will Make America Great Again”
Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign website
May 3, 2016

“Mexican people, we are not going to pay any single cent for such a stupid wall! And it’s going to be completely useless… The first loser of such a policy would be the United States. If this guy [Donald Trump] pretends that closing the borders to anywhere either for trade (or) for people is going to provide prosperity to the United States, he is completely crazy.”

Felipe Calderón, MA, MPA
56th President of Mexico
“Mexico Won’t Pay a Cent for Trump’s ‘Stupid Wall'”
Feb. 8, 2016


5. Driver’s Licenses

“More policy makers have come to the realization that granting driver’s permits to the undocumented is in the best interest of public safety and perfectly compatible with federal law… Licenses are a privilege that all drivers, citizens and noncitizens alike, must earn. Making licensing available to every motorist who can prove driving competence reduces the number of uninsured drivers, creating more equitable insurance costs.…It’s in the public interest to acknowledge realities and put the safety of all motorists ahead of the politics of immigration.”

Boston Globe Editorial Board
“Immigration Has Nothing to Do with Driving Skills”
Boston Globe website
Sep. 7, 2015

“We are all the descendants of immigrants, and I certainly support legal immigration, but by issuing documents that legitimize the presence of those who have come into our country illegally, we cannot verify the criminal histories of these individuals, or their health histories. In addition, I fear that although it is stated that these licenses cannot be used for the purpose of voting, that there are not enough safeguards to prevent it from being abused in such a fashion…This program has caused a tremendous increase in lines at the DMV and as public policy it is ill-advised and unworkable.”

Rob Sampson
Connecticut State Representative (R)
May 18, 2015 speech
May 18, 2015


6. Mass Deportations

“Arresting and deporting women and children in the middle of the night is undoubtedly a nasty business. It’s also sometimes necessary…None of these [other immigration] efforts precludes the stronger enforcement of the law in the U.S. The New Year’s weekend raids targeted 121 adults and children that an immigration judge had already ordered removed from the U.S. As harsh as those measures may be, they are consistent with the law and send a strong deterrent signal. Despite the outcry, backing off now would reinforce the misperceptions in Central America that helped create this problem — and undermine public support for legal immigration in the U.S.”

Bloomberg View Editorial Board
“Obama’s Deportation Raids Are Ugly—and Right”
Bloomberg View website
Jan. 14, 2016

“Locating millions of immigrants for deportation would take a very dramatic increase in domestic surveillance and enforcement, including door-to-door roundups. Mistakes would inevitably be made, with legal immigrants and citizens swept up in the process. Courts that handle immigration cases would be overwhelmed.Mass deportations would also harm the economy. Most undocumented workers are in relatively low-skilled jobs, but about a quarter are in white-collar jobs. Of those, about half are in management, finance or professional careers. Removing large numbers would have a very significant impact on the businesses that employ them. Undocumented workers make up about 5.1% of the American workforce at a time when a 4.9% unemployment rate shows that labor markets are growing tight.”

USA Today Editorial Board
“The Deportation Deception: Our View”
Mar. 6, 2016


7. Economic Burden

“The economic impact of illegal immigration in the U.S. is costly and impacts the financial security of the county’s legal residents… [U]nregulated workers are often underpaid, which keeps wages lower in a particular occupation and region… Illegal aliens can put a financial burden on local and federal law enforcement… Immigrants on average tend to have larger families that those in the U.S. This difference can strain the resources of local school districts.”

Michael McDonald, PhD
Assistant Professor in Finance at Fairfield University
“10 Ways Illegal Immigration Affects You Financially”
Go Banking Rates website
Nov. 16, 2015

“Undocumented immigrants contribute significantly to state and local taxes, collectively paying an estimated $11.64 billion a year. Contributions range from almost $2.2 million in Montana with an estimated undocumented population of 4,000 to more than $3.1 billion in California, home to more than 3 million undocumented immigrants. Undocumented immigrants nationwide pay on average an estimated 8 percent of their incomes in state and local taxes.”

Lisa Christensen Gee, JD
Senior Policy Analyst
Matthew Gardner
Senior Fellow
Meg Wiehe, MPA
State Tax Policy Director
Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP)
“Undocumented Immigrants’ State and Local Tax Contributions”
Feb. 2016


8. Terrorist Threat

“It is an acknowledged fact that since we have refused to secure our borders, we have facilitated the transit and infiltration of al Qaeda affiliated terrorists and narco-terrorists who are now living illegally in the United States. This is a serious national security issue, as manifested by the Boston Marathon bombing…Fixing our porous borders is one of combating the threat of terrorism that America faces. Any immigration bill must have enforceable border-security measures as a key national security element in protecting our country.”

James A. Lyons
Retired Admiral, Former Commander in Chief of the US Pacific Fleet, and Senior US Military Representative to the United Nations
“LYONS: The National Security Component of Immigration Reform”
Washington Times website
Aug. 14, 2013

“[I]llegal immigration along the southern US border is not a contributor to terrorism…Empirically, the case is simply false. Foreigners who’ve carried out terrorist attacks have entered the United States legally on immigrant, non-immigrant work/study, or tourist visas. While some of them may have been ‘illegal’ in the sense of overstaying their visas, this is a qualitatively different problem than border crossing.”

Open Borders
“Terrorism and Illegal Immigration in the United States”
Open Borders website
(accessed Mar. 14, 2016)


9. Disadvantage American Workers

“[A]nyone who tells you that immigration doesn’t have any negative effects doesn’t understand how it really works. When the supply of workers goes up, the price that firms have to pay to hire workers goes down. Wage trends over the past half-century suggest that a 10 percent increase in the number of workers with a particular set of skills probably lowers the wage of that group by at least 3 percent. Even after the economy has fully adjusted, those skill groups that received the most immigrants will still offer lower pay relative to those that received fewer immigrants.Both low- and high-skilled natives are affected by the influx of immigrants. But because a disproportionate percentage of immigrants have few skills, it is low-skilled American workers, including many blacks and Hispanics, who have suffered most from this wage dip. The monetary loss is sizable…

We don’t need to rely on complex statistical calculations to see the harm being done to some workers. Simply look at how employers have reacted. A decade ago, Crider Inc., a chicken processing plant in Georgia, was raided by immigration agents, and 75 percent of its workforce vanished over a single weekend. Shortly after, Crider placed an ad in the local newspaper announcing job openings at higher wages.”

George J. Borjas, PhD
Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy at Harvard University
“Yes, Immigration Hurts American Workers”
Sep./Oct. 2016

“It might seem intuitive that when there is an increase in the supply of workers, the ones who were here already will make less money or lose their jobs. Immigrants [documented and undocumented] don’t just increase the supply of labor, though; they simultaneously increase demand for it, using the wages they earn to rent apartments, eat food, get haircuts, buy cellphones. That means there are more jobs building apartments, selling food, giving haircuts and dispatching the trucks that move those phones. Immigrants increase the size of the overall population, which means they increase the size of the economy. Logically, if immigrants were ‘stealing’ jobs, so would every young person leaving school and entering the job market; countries should become poorer as they get larger. In reality, of course, the opposite happens.”

Adam Davidson
International Business and Economics Correspondent at National Public Radio (NPR)
“Debunking the Myth of the Job-Stealing Immigrant”
Mar. 24, 2015


10. Higher Crime

“75 percent of those on the most wanted criminals list in Los Angeles, Phoenix and Albuquerque are illegal aliens.One quarter of all inmates in California detention centers are Mexican nationals, as are more than 40 percent of all inmates in Arizona and 48 percent in New Mexico jails.

Over 53 percent of all investigated burglaries reported in California, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, and Texas are perpetrated by illegal aliens.”

Peter B. Gemma
National Executive Committee Member of the Constitution Party
“Illegal Alien Crime and Violence by the Numbers”
Constitution Party website
(accessed Feb. 27, 2017)

“Between 1990 and 2013, the foreign-born share of the U.S. population grew from 7.9 percent to 13.1 percent and the number of unauthorized immigrants more than tripled from 3.5 million to 11.2 million.

During the same period, FBI data indicate that the violent crime rate declined 48 percent—which included falling rates of aggravated assault, robbery, rape, and murder. Likewise, the property crime rate fell 41 percent, including declining rates of motor vehicle theft, larceny/robbery, and burglary.”

Walter A. Ewing, PhD
Senior Researcher at the American Immigration Council
Daniel E. Martinez, PhD
Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at The George Washington University
Ruben G. Rumbaut, PhD
Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the University of California at Irvine
“The Criminalization of Immigration in the United States”
American Immigration Council website
July 13, 2015