A Pathway to Citizenship for Undocumented Americans

It is crucial for Congress to enact legislation that provides a pathway to citizenship, for the estimated 11.1 million undocumented Americans living in fear to come out of the shadows.[1] A pathway to citizenship would keep families together, provide those seen as second class individuals the opportunity to become U.S. citizens, and benefit our nation’s economy. In 2013, the Senate’s passage of Immigration Bill S. 744 was the closest the U.S. has come to reforming our immigration system. However, the House of Representatives refused to consider it, and the bill died in the 113th Congress.

Family unity is directly tied to our American values of community, respect, and love. Immigration enforcement in recent years, however, has resulted in a higher incidence of U.S. born children experiencing the deportation of a parent. Between 2009 and 2013, an estimated 4 million immigrants were deported, with up to half a million of those individuals possibly parents of a U.S. born child.[2] When families are torn apart, children are forced to grow up in environments that are financially, mentally, and physically unstable. Spouses and partners of detained individuals also suffer from depression and social isolation that can increase poor outcomes for themselves and their children. The foundation of this country is supporting families in search of a better life and likewise, supporting families is the foundation of a pathway to citizenship.

Administrative relief programs such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) are temporary with limited rights, and thus are not the equivalent of becoming a citizen. Suggestions that immigrants should be content with these reliefs and legal statuses such as legal permanent residency, are suggesting they remain second-class individuals. A pathway to citizenship allows immigrants to fully embody what it means to be a citizen from engaging in civic duties such as voting in elections and serving on jury duty to learning English. Granting any legal status that denies the ability to apply for naturalization is ultimately defining these individuals as “separate but equal.”

One of the many economic benefits from a pathway to citizenship is the end of the “shadow economy.” Permitting immigrants to legally work would consequently increase the amount of taxes contributed to social security and benefit programs. An estimated $2.1 billion in state and local tax revenue across the nation would be added to the economy.[3] Additionally, a pathway to citizenship would encourage equal opportunity for workers, create businesses with higher wages, and reduce worker exploitation.

NETWORK Lobby supports a pathway to citizenship because we recognize the reality of individuals searching for a better life. We understand the value and importance of keeping families together, providing individuals the opportunity to truly embrace the American identity, and contributing to our nation’s economy.

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[1] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/09/21/unauthorized-immigrant-population-stable-for-half-a-decade/

[2] http://www.migrationpolicy.org/news/deportation-parent-can-have-significant-and-long-lasting-harmful-effects-child-well-being-pair

[3] http://www.itep.org/immigration/