The path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who benefit from an immigration law is an essential principle for comprehensive reform. Not giving them a clear, concrete opportunity to become citizens is an insult to our history and a betrayal of our pride as a nation of immigrants.
Therefore, we are concerned about the fact that the Senate’s bipartisan proposal promotes a tortuous path to fully integrate immigrants who have been in the U.S. for many years.
The senators’ proposal is positive in the sense that it allows for legalization of the undocumented as border security measures and systems to prevent people who entered with visas to remain beyond their authorized stays are implemented. This is better than previous proposals that first demanded that a secure border be declared before beginning any steps to legalize immigrants.
However, this proposal lends itself to having millions of people remain in an immigration limbo for a long, indefinite period of timewithout access to gradual integration despite fulfilling requirements like speaking English and paying taxes, among other conditions.
In this regard, the principle of a path to citizenship that President Obama outlined yesterday does not change the idea that legalization has to be “earned” by meeting requirements like paying fines and back taxes, as opposed to what would be a general amnesty. But at the same time, this is not conditioned upon political matters, like the Senate’s proposal.
The United States cannot have millions of people working in the shadows, just like it cannot have them as second-class individuals with duties like paying taxes, as residents do, but without the benefits of residency.
A nation that prides itself on its immigrant origins must remain faithful to its history of embracing immigrant workers so they can give the best of themselves and be treated in a way that recognizes their efforts.
An immigration reform without a clear path to citizenship is a system that legalizes the exploitation of cheap labor. It is a reform that does not fulfill its mission.