On the road to an immigration reform that works for the country and resolves the shortcomings of the current system, a discussion has recently come to the forefront: Do immigrants want or deserve citizenship, or would they be satisfied with a residency? The issue made news a few days ago when former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who earlier had supported the idea of completely integrating the undocumented, including an eventual path to citizenship, shifted his position. He declared that citizenship would be, in his words, a reward for unauthorized immigration and as such should not be offered to these immigrants. In addition, Bush said, many of them do not wish to become citizens.
On this issue, we get the impression that many of those speaking and making comments are unfamiliar with this country’s immigration laws. It is impossible to become a citizen without first obtaining permanent residency, what is popularly known as a green card. There is no permanent residency without an option for citizenship. In turn, citizenship is not automatic; it is a non-mandatory option that a lawful permanent resident can aspire to after a few years as a resident and fulfilling certain requirements, including paying a fee. No one can “automatically” go from being undocumented to being a citizen. It is also not mandatory to become a citizen. However, it is preferable, if someone plans to live in this country for a long time, to become integrated politically and civically, in addition to economically and socially.
The idea of creating a long-term residency without an option for citizenship as some sort of punishment is not a good one. Neither is creating a type of residency with fewer rights. There are other ways to make sure immigration is more orderly in the future, like implementing a good immigration system that responds to this country’s economic needs.