Center for American Progress

Undocumented Immigrants Should Be Given a Path to Citizenship, Not Just Legal Status

Undocumented Immigrants Should Be Given a Path to Citizenship, Not Just Legal Status

Giving undocumented immigrants a path to full citizenship would help our society and our economy.

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As the Obama administration and Congress gear up to fix our nation’s deeply flawed immigration system, the fight over immigration reform will revolve not simply around the question of what to do with the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country, but how to resolve their status.

Over the past few months, a number of prominent senators such as Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), and Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) have floated the idea of offering permanent legal status for unauthorized immigrants living in the country with no direct path to citizenship as a “compromise” solution instead of full comprehensive immigration reform. By creating a permanent underclass with little chance of full integration into the nation, these proposals have rightly received strong backlash from advocacy groups such as United We Dream, elected officials such as San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Here we review the top five reasons why citizenship—not just legal status—is of critical importance to our society and to our economy.

  • Big gains to the economy.
  • Economic gains for the native born.
  • Certainty for both immigrants and employers.
  • A stronger, more integrated United States.
  • Forward, not backward, on equality.

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