Last updated on: 11/13/2023 | Author: ProCon.org

Should the U.S. Government Provide a Path to Citizenship for Undocumented Immigrants?

“Path to citizenship” is a political phrase that usually refers to allowing undocumented immigrants to become American citizens via a special process. This process may include special requirements (such as fees, background checks, or additional waiting times) beyond those already in place for the naturalization of documented immigrants. Citizenship means the immigrants could receive government benefits (such as Social Security), would be eligible to vote, could bring family members into the U.S., and would not be deported for committing a crime. For more on the path to citizenship, explore the ProCon debate.

PRO (yes)

Pro

Joe Biden:

“The U.S. Citizenship Act will:

…Create an earned roadmap to citizenship for undocumented individuals. The bill allows undocumented individuals to apply for temporary legal status, with the ability to apply for green cards after five years if they pass criminal and national security background checks and pay their taxes. Dreamers, TPS holders, and immigrant farmworkers who meet specific requirements are eligible for green cards immediately under the legislation. After three years, all green card holders who pass additional background checks and demonstrate knowledge of English and U.S. civics can apply to become citizens. Applicants must be physically present in the United States on or before January 1, 2021. The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may waive the presence requirement for those deported on or after January 20, 2017 who were physically present for at least three years prior to removal for family unity and other humanitarian purposes. Lastly, the bill further recognizes America as a nation of immigrants by changing the word “alien” to “noncitizen” in our immigration laws.”

Editors’ Note: The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 did not pass the U.S. House.

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White House, “Fact Sheet: President Biden Sends Immigration Bill to Congress as Part of His Commitment to Modernize our Immigration System,” whitehouse.gov, Jan. 20, 2021

CON (no)

Con

Chris Christie:

“Megyn Kelly: On the subject of immigration, are you for a path to citizenship?

Chris Christie: I think that’s an extreme way to go and I think that quite frankly what Hillary Clinton is doing right now is pandering. That’s pandering… So no, I don’t believe that’s the way to go and I don’t believe that’s where people are…

Megan Kelly: So you say now that you are not for a path to citizenship, but back in 2010 you said on This Week that you were. What changed?

Chris Christie: I think I’ve learned over time about this issue and done a lot more work on it… What I’m saying now is that I think we’ve got to come up with a solution for it, but I think just immediately going to a path to citizenship as Hillary Clinton is proposing to do is just pandering, it’s just politics.”

Editors’ Note: Christie was previously in favor of a path to citizenship: “The president and the Congress have to step up to the plate, they have to secure our borders and they have to put forward a commonsense path to citizenship for people. And until they do that, states are going to struggle all over the country with this problem and so is federal law enforcement that doesn’t have the resources to do it effectively.”

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The Kelly File, Fox News, May 18, 2015
Source for Editors’ Note: Chris Christie, “In Case You Missed It: Video & Transcript of Governor Christie’s Interview with Jake Tapper on ABC’s ‘This Week,'” nj.gov, July 26, 2010

Con

Ron DeSantis:

Trump is “attacking me for opposing an amnesty bill. He wanted to amnesty 2 million illegal aliens in 2018 when he was president. I opposed him on that. Because I’m opposed to amnesty.”

Editors’ Note: ProCon is citing Politifact as the source of this quote because the DeSantis campaign removed the following source: The Matt Murphy Show, rondesantis.gosimian.com, May 25, 2023

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Maria Ramirez Uribe, “Donald Trump ‘Wanted to Amnesty 2 Million Illegal Aliens in 2018 When He Was President.,'” politifact.com, June 5, 2023

Con

Nikki Haley:

“I think there’s legal immigration that we can focus on at the same time. And I think that needs to be focused on what does our country need. Let’s do it by merit. Let’s do it by talent. Let’s do it based on what the businesses need. But let’s not do it just because people happen to cross the fence and get away. Let’s not do it because we have crowded facilities and we can’t hold anymore. That’s the wrong way to go about it. We have to make sure this is a national security issue. We have to vet them, we have to know exactly who’s coming in here. Iran has said that the easiest way to get into America is through the southern border. We shouldn’t wait for another 9/11 to realize that Republicans and Democrats have to get in a room and figure out immigration reform and start working for the American people instead of the other way around.”

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Face the Nation, “Transcript: Nikki Haley on ‘Face the Nation,’ May 14, 2023,” cbsnews.com, May 14, 2023

Con

Donald Trump:

“We’ve issued 40 million green cards since 1970, which means the permanent residency and a path to citizenship for many, many people. But we will not allow our generosity to be abused by those who would break our laws, defy our rules, violate our borders, break into our country illegally. We won’t allow it.

Mass, uncontrolled immigration is especially unfair to the many wonderful, law-abiding immigrants already living here who followed the rules and waited their turn. Some have been waiting for many years. Some have been waiting for a long time. They’ve done everything perfectly. And they’re going to come in. At some point, they’re going to come in. In many cases, very soon. We need them to come in, because we have companies coming into our country; they need workers. But they have to come in on a merit basis, and they will come in on a merit basis.”

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Donald Trump, “Remarks by President Trump on the Illegal Immigration Crisis and Border Security,” whitehouse.gov, Nov. 1, 2018

Not Clear or Not Found

Doug Burgum:

No position as of July 21, 2023.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

No position as of July 21, 2023.

Vivek Ramaswamy:

No position as of July 21, 2023.