CAP en Español
Small CAP Banner

Idea of the Day: Undocumented Immigrants Need a Path to Citizenship

  • print icon
  • SHARE:
  • Facebook icon
  • Twitter icon
  • Share on Google+
  • Email icon
idea light bulb

In the immediate wake of historic losses with Latino voters in this year’s presidential election, numerous Republican political advisors and lawmakers did one of the most dramatic policy about-faces in recent memory: They embraced policy reforms that would legalize the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Coming from the party that ran on an immigration platform of “self-deportation,” this U-turn was enough to give the casual observer whiplash. But the political course correction was inevitable for Republicans hoping to seriously compete for the vote of Latinos—the fastest-growing segment of the electorate.

Although this new political roadmap should bode well for immigration reform in the next Congress, it faces obstacles from some lawmakers who have failed to fully internalize the implications of the election and the policy challenges facing the country. These lawmakers—awkwardly including two Latinos, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID)—suggest that Congress should start with incremental changes, like DREAM Act-Lite proposals, that they claim are easier to pass. This approach, however, fundamentally misses the point.

Both the politics and the policy of immigration reform demand a broader strategy. The foremost priority for any proposal is creating a legislative track for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States to earn the privilege of citizenship. Politically, anything short of that will fail to rehabilitate the Republican Party’s brand with Latinos; indeed it will only perpetuate the party’s image problem. And from a policy perspective, it will fail to correct the systemic dysfunction that has led to 5 percent of the U.S. workforce being undocumented.

For more on this topic, please see:

To speak with our experts on this topic, please contact:

Print: Liz Bartolomeo (poverty, health care)
202.481.8151 or

Print: Tom Caiazza (foreign policy, energy and environment, LGBT issues, gun-violence prevention)
202.481.7141 or

Print: Allison Preiss (economy, education)
202.478.6331 or

Print: Tanya Arditi (immigration, Progress 2050, race issues, demographics, criminal justice, Legal Progress)
202.741.6258 or

Print: Chelsea Kiene (women's issues,, faith)
202.478.5328 or

Print: Beatriz Lopez (Center for American Progress Action Fund)
202.741.6255 or

Spanish-language and ethnic media: Rafael Medina
202.478.5313 or

TV: Rachel Rosen
202.483.2675 or

Radio: Sally Tucker
202.481.8103 or


This is part of a regular column: Idea of the Day

For more from the same column, click here