Immigration Reform 2013: U.S. Owes Undocumented Immigrants Citizenship
Immigration reform season is finally upon us. And while Congress bickers over an appropriate action plan for the nearly 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. — the animosity toward those of recent foreign descent is palpable — it is important to recognize the ethical obligation the U.S. holds to both its current undocumented population and its citizens: the U.S offers such unique economic and social characteristics that it is both hypocritical and foolish to denounce a regulated pathway to citizenship.
U.S. economic demand — and the U.S. policy failures of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) — pulled immigrants within its borders and the country's ethos made it easy to stay. Whether individuals physically crossed the border or simply overstayed their visas, each gambled with their lives on a chance to live in the U.S., often in search of the very ideals this nation represents. A surplus of low-skilled employment due to the rising social mobility of the American youth caused capitalistic forces to reach beyond to replenish its supply of workers. As the benefits of the "American Dream" were realized for a new generation, the nation ultimately invited immigrants to fill the gap.
When the U.S. bemoans illegal immigration, it shirks the accountability card it realistically owns. This is not to imply the U.S. is solely responsible for the 11 million undocumented residents, but a perception of a victimized country is inaccurate. As a liable party to its own immigration crisis, the U.S. must stop with the premonition that a pathway to citizenship is unwarranted.
Moreover, progressive immigration reform is extremely beneficial for the U.S. population as a whole. A pathway to citizenship encourages ambitious undocumented youth to reach higher educational levels, which provides numerous societal benefits like greater tax revenue and healthier communities.
And even though most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants do not qualify as ambitious youth, their pathway to citizenship is just as valuable. Such households can generate higher incomes, achieve greater purchasing power, and ultimately help grow the economy. It is simply irrational to ignore the benefits of a pathway to citizenship. The U.S. economy has long been marked by the successes of immigrants and the nation should not only cherish that history but also embrace its evolution.
The recently introduced and highly publicized immigration reform bill by the "Gang of 8," which consists of leaders within both the Senate and the House of Representatives is a realistic and fair policy approach to immigration. While there are improvements that could and should be discussed, Congress should focus on its obligation to support both low-skilled, undocumented residents and their children who became mesmerized by the "American Dream" this country presented.