Debating A Pathway to Citizenship

December PF Resolution: Immigration reform should include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.


The December Public Forum resolution asks the question of whether or not undocumented immigrants who are currently living in the United States should be given a path toward citizenship. In this essay, I will review the key terms in the resolution and discuss some of the key arguments on each side.

Key Terms

Undocumented immigrants. Undocumented immigrants are individuals who came to the United States and reside here illegally. There are referred to as undocumented immigrants because they do not have the proper papers – the documents – that permit them to live in the United States.
Path to citizenship. “Path to citizenship” is the idea that the United States government should allow individuals who are here illegally to become citizens of the United States as long as they complete the requirements (those vary in different proposals) to do so.
It is worth noting that including a path to citizenship is one of the central controversies in immigration.  It is really controversial because a part of the current dispute is is focused on what  path to provide and not generally whether a path should be provided.

As Congress wrestles with immigration legislation, a central question is whether the 11 million immigrants already in the United States illegally should get a path to citizenship.
The answer from a small but growing number of House Republicans is “yes,” just as long as it’s not the “special” path advocated by Democrats and passed by the Senate.
“There should be a pathway to citizenship – not a special pathway and not no pathway,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told ABC 4 Utah after speaking at a recent town hall meeting in his district. “But there has to be a legal, lawful way to go through this process that works, and right now it doesn’t.”
Many House Republicans say people who illegally crossed the border or overstayed their visas should not be rewarded with a special, tailor-made solution that awards them a prize of American citizenship, especially when millions are waiting in line to attempt the process through current legal channels.
It’s far from clear, however, what a path to citizenship that’s not a special path to citizenship might look like, or how many people it might help.
The phrase means different things to different people, and a large number of House Republicans oppose any approach that results in citizenship for people now are in the country illegally. Some lawmakers say such immigrants should be permitted to attain legal worker status, but stop there and never progress to citizenship. That’s a solution Democrats reject.
Nonetheless, advocates searching for a way ahead on one of President Barack Obama’s second-term priorities see in the “no special path to citizenship” formulation the potential for compromise. Huffington Post, September 2, 2013

One important point to emphasize is that the Pro is required to defend a pathway to citizenship and not just one that allows the undocumented immigrants to have some documents and live in the US legally.
And a related issue is what pathway that Pro may choose to defend or arguably have to defend. For example, can they defend a relatively easy path or should they have to defend the pathway identified in existing legislation, which is quite complicated.

Sylvia Puente, Executive Director, May 30, 2013, “Why the Path to Citizenship May Be More of a Labrynth,”
SB744 (also known as the immigration reform bill) will soon be put to a vote on the Senate floor after a nod from the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. Meanwhile, the media is busy touting the still-unrealized legislation as “the biggest victory for advocates of immigrant rights in a generation” because a so-called “path to citizenship” provision for the undocumented — the “centerpiece of the legislation”– remains intact.
We at Latino Policy Forum are some of the very advocates who should be celebrating this supposed victory. But, rooted in reality, we’ve yet to break out the champagne flutes. Why? Should SB744 pass, the “pathway” will be far from straightforward for most immigrants. Meandering at best and labyrinthine at worst, the bill is full of potential tangles, pitfalls, and dead ends.
The pathway is at least 13 years long, and it’s not a straight shot. First, an applicant will live a decade as a Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI), then three years as a Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) before he or she is able to apply for citizenship. Bottlenecks are practically built into the process: As currently outlined, SB744 would allow a one-year window (250 working days) for an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants to apply for RPI status, a proposal that would likely leave the government scrambling to process an influx of 48,000 new cases per day.
And while 12 million people may embark down the path, decidedly fewer will see its end. Even some U.S. citizens would have trouble meeting SB744’s laundry list of requirements in these tough economic times: a minimum of $3,000 per person in fines and application fees (nearly $8,000 for an average American family of 2.59 people, keeping in mind that immigrant households tend to be larger and include extended family members), and a near-spotless work record, even as 11.7 million Americans were unemployed in April 2013. (A proposed V-visa for families would relieve some of these issues, but details remain to be seen.)
Most undocumented immigrants come to the U.S. to work (common knowledge that’s been confirmed by academics, policymakers, and data: 94 percent of undocumented men ages of 18-64 participate in the work force). Undocumented folks act as an economic stimulus to the country’s languishing economy, and their positive impacts are well-documented.
But one in five of our country’s low-wage workers are undocumented immigrants, meaning a high percentage of these folks are toiling away in low-skill jobs and informal industries, often resulting in extremely low or inconsistent pay. In fact, the 25 percent of undocumented families would automatically be disqualified for RPI status simply for earning annual incomes of less than $20,000. (The bill sets the income requirement at $30,000 for a family of four, or 125 percent of the federal poverty level.)
LPR applicants will also be required to demonstrate a consistent work history over their 10-year tenures as RPIs, with no gaps longer than 60 days. The requirement poses significant challenges in today’s uncertain economy, with proof of employment potentially difficult in the informal sectors that employ many immigrant workers. (DACA-eligible youth are facing a comparable problem with their own burdens of proof, leaving many unable to obtain deferred action.) Stay-at-home moms and dads — the primary caregivers to thousands upon thousands of U.S.-citizen children — will be hard-pressed to meet this requirement.

The reality is that a “pathway to citizenship” doesn’t have any fixed meaning.

Ted Nelson, March 9, 2013, “What Does a Pathway to Citizenship Mean?”
So what do people mean when they say “path to citizenship”?
Here are a few different ideas:
1. The Restrictionist
Arch conservatives have long argued that a path to citizenship already exists, and that we don’t need to revise the immigration system in this respect.
For some immigrants, that’s technically true: they could return to their home country and apply for a visa. But it’s kind of like saying you can travel from L.A. to New York without a car. It’s possible, but it’s going to take a lot longer than most people believe is reasonable.
If you’ve entered the U.S. without inspection (by illegally crossing the border, for example), you may be subject to a three- or 10-year bar, meaning you would need to return to your home country and wait at least that long until you could begin applying for a visa to re-enter the U.S.
Waiting out the 10-year bar doesn’t guarantee a visa, either. Even for people with family members in the country — a viable pathway to legal status — visa waits can be decades. So you could potentially be talking about a “pathway” that takes as long as 30 to 35 years. For people who don’t qualify for existing visa categories (there are few visas for lesser-skilled workers who want to stay in the U.S. long-term, for example), there might be no pathway at all.
2. President Obama
Last month, a draft of the president’s immigration plan leaked to the media, giving us an idea of what the commander-in-chief considers a reasonable pathway to citizenship. The president proposed creating a probationary immigration status that the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants could apply for following the passage of a bill.
You could consider this the first prong in his path to citizenship. Immigrants will be forced to meet certain qualifications — pay a fine, pass a background check, learn English — and would then be awarded a status that allows them to live and work in the U.S. legally. The probationary status would last no more than eight years under Obama’s plan. After that, immigrants will be able to apply for a green card. Under current law, anyone who is granted a green card can apply for citizenship after waiting five years.
You could consider the special access to a green card the second prong of his pathway. The president’s plan, more broadly explained in a January speech, also calls for clearing the existing backlog of visa applications in the legal immigration system. That’s meant to ensure that undocumented immigrants using this special pathway would not jump ahead of those already waiting for visas.
A group in the Senate working on immigration reform is considering a similar plan to Obama, but the details have not yet been released by lawmakers.
3. Jeb Bush
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a popular name in discussions about future presidential candidates, did a great job last week of completely confusing everyone about his beliefs on citizenship. The skinny: Bush said one thing in a new book he was releasing, then another in interviews afterward. But for our purposes, let’s look at what he said in the book.
In “Immigration Wars,” Bush says that undocumented immigrants should not get citizenship at all. Instead, he proposes a path to permanent legal status, but not citizenship. As it stands now, green card holders are able to apply for citizenship after five years. But in the book, Bush lays out a plan that would create a new type of permanent legal status that would not lead to “the cherished fruits of citizenship.” The plan would effectively create a second-class of citizenship — someone with the ability to stay in the country permanently but without the full rights of a citizen.
In interviews earlier this month, Bush said that he’s open to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, contradicting the stance in the book.
4. Rand Paul
The Republican senator from Kentucky, and potential presidential candidate, got people talking on Tuesday when early news reports said he was backing a path to citizenship. A few hours later, his stance wasn’t so clear.
According to a speech Paul made Tuesday morning, he said that he supports the creation of a probationary status for undocumented immigrants, something similar to the first prong of Obama’s pathway. Immigrants who qualify for such a visa would be able to live and work in the U.S., but would not have any special pathway to citizenship, as they would under the second prong of the Obama plan.
“They would get into the back of the line and get no special privileges to do so,” a Paul adviser told the Washington Post. “What his plan is extending to them is a quicker path to normalization, not citizenship, and being able to stay, work and pay taxes legally.”
Unlike Bush, Paul did not say that his plan would specifically bar undocumented immigrants from seeking citizenship. But if Congress were to create a probationary visa, as Paul proposes, it would also need to decide if such a visa would be eligible for a move to permanent residency or not. For example, guest worker programs are temporary by nature, and don’t offer a path to citizenship. Paul hasn’t made it clear whether his proposed visa would be more like a guest-worker program, or a visa where the person might be eligible to obtain permanent residency over time.

Rand Paul even argues that the term “a path to citizenship” should not even be used, which has the potential to set-up an interesting Con argument about terminology.
Immigration reform. Immigration reform includes the net totality of all measures that are being considered as part of a large scale, Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR), package to address illegal immigration measures. Different proposals include granting current illegal immigrants amnesty, establishing significant legal hurdles for illegal immigrants to cross, strengthening border security, and increasing deportation.
The resolution simply asks whether or not a path toward citizenship should be included in these options. It doesn’t ask the Pro to defend specific path and it opens the door to them defending a particular path, but it does require them to defend a path to citizenship rather than options that simply allow people to stay without becoming citizens.
In June, the US Senate passed a CIR bill that both substantially increased border security and provided a 13 year path to citizenship for those already here illegally.  This path requires illegal immigrants to pay fines, taxes, and fees. Once immigrants pass through these hurdles, they could get a permanent resident card in 10 years and then citizenship in three more. Agricultural workers and children would have a quicker path. The House is unlikely to pass this bill, but may pass smaller bills that include some paths to citizenship, such as for kids living here illegally.
Other suggestions include allowing the undocumented immigrants to live in the US but not allowing them to gain citizenship. This is a fruitful source of Con arguments.

It imposes certain restrictions, seeks payment of fees, fines and taxes, and requires that prospective immigrants attempting the process legally are dealt with first. Once those criteria are met, most people here illegally could get permanent resident green cards in 10 years, and citizenship in three more. Agriculture workers and immigrants brought to this country as children would have a quicker path.
That approach is rejected by most House Republicans as a “special” path to citizenship.
“It’s not a bill I can support,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said at a Verona, Va., town hall meeting recently. “We think a legal status in the United States, but not a special pathway to citizenship, might be appropriate.”

There is also a debate within this dispute about whether or not there should be new pathways to citizenship rather illegal immigrants relying on old pathways. This is an interesting debate, but it is not one that is part of the resolution – the resolution simply asks whether or not pathways should be provided.

Pro Arguments

There are a number of different arguments in favor of providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. These arguments include the benefits of simply having more legal citizens as opposed to undocumented aliens to those of  increasing immigration. Regardless of specifics, however, there are two things that Pro teams should emphasize –
(a) The number of undocumented immigrants is high now – 11 million!  Pro teams should focus on the fact that there are already millions of undocumented workers living in the United States and that demographic pressures make high rates of immigration inevitable.
Enforcement/deportation have not been effective. The question, they should argue, is not whether immigrants should live in the United States but whether or not they should live here illegally.

Franco 12 [Jimmy, syndicated Latin American blogger, “Immigration: An Inevitable Cycle of History,” LatinoPOV, 7/6,]
The current migration of people from south to north must be viewed from a global and historical perspective rather than through the narrow and present-day prism of specific political borders and restrictive lawsRecent laws and court decisions that are related to immigration issues such as Arizona’s SB 1070 and Alabama’s HB 56 are a political reaction to a historical movement of humankind that artificial borders cannot permanently hold back. Attempts by the U.S. government and some of its states along with numerous European countries to totally prevent the migration of people into their territories is similar to trying to stop water from eventually flowing. An overall political solution is needed and not more anti-immigrant laws and racial hatred. The historical migration of different groups of people on this planet from one region to another over hundreds of thousands of years is an irreversible trend motivated by a basic instinct for survival that can be slowed or temporarily stopped, but not prevented. Today, this international movement of people from the ex-colonies of the south to the northern regions is being propelled by various factors. These include the strong economic forces of global capitalism whose international division of labor is causing a displacement of societies and families, political and military conflicts, and the quest by impoverished and desperate people from the underdeveloped part of the world to seek work and opportunities for their families in the more prosperous northern hemisphere. The recent surge of discriminatory laws that attempt to restrict such immigration accompanied by an increase of right-wing groups who spew racial hatred are an attempt by political extremists to stem this northward flow of people without providing any meaningful solution.

(b) A pathway to citizenship is not necessarily controversial. There are pathways to citizenship now and all pathways are not controversial. It will be difficult for the Con to prove that NO pathway to citizenship should exist – that ONLY existing US citizens and their children should be able to be citizens. The resolution only asks the Pro to defend a pathway to citizenship as part of immigration reform so it seems that they only have to defend existing pathways (they could defend other new pathways but that does not seem to be required).  Con teams, it seems, are left to defend a pretty difficult position.
Pro teams should emphasize benefits to providing a path to citizenship that do not depending on increasing the total number of people living in the United States.  For example, Pro teams could argue that legalizing immigration will reduce crime because it will bring undocumented aliens into the mainstream of society.
A second example of a benefit is an improvement in US-Latin American relations. Immigration issues have been a source of tension between the United States, Mexico, and other countries in Latin America.  Permitting more immigrants to move to the US could reduce tensions in relations between the United States and these countries. Improved relations could work to facilitate movement on a number of important issues, including poverty, climate change, and weapons proliferation.
One objection to making it easier for people to immigrate is that it could increase the chance that terrorists could enter the United States.  There are a couple answers to this argument. Two, the Pro is only arguing for a pathway to citizenship for people already living here and not for a new wave of immigration. Two, there are many security measures in place to prevent terrorists from entering the US and immigration reform includes new measures.
Some argue that supporting immigration to the US is problematic because it will causer a “brain drain” from developing countries when many people leave to seek life in the US.  The problem with this argument is that it doesn’t account for the investments that individuals in the US are making in their home countries . This is also simply true, at best, for very few countries
Another objection to supporting higher levels of immigration in the United States is that it could depress wages for US workers because more available workers would mean that more people are available for companies to higher, requiring them to pay less to get workers.  The problem with this argument is that more people means more economic activity, more innovation, and new industries; all of these factors lead to greater demand for employees, increasing wages and spending.  The previous 1986 reforms prove that this is likely.   In the most simple way, increasing economic activity increases consumer demand, which increases hiring.
And if the Con win that a pathway to citizenship increases the total number of immigrants living in the US, the Pro can defend an increase in the total levels of immigration with the following arguments.
Reduced poverty in developing countries.  When people immigrate to the US they work and they send money (remittances) back to their home country, reducing poverty in the home country.
US economy. There are a number of reasons that creating a pathway to citizenship could improve the US economy. First, if people have the opportunity to be in the US legally then it is easier for them to apply for jobs, buy homes, and even start businesses. This would add to total economic activity and create a spill-over effect.

Comprehensive immigration reform brings substantial economic gains even in the short run—during the first three years following legalization. The real wages of newly legalized workers increase by roughly $4,400 per year among those in less-skilled jobs during the first three years of implementation, and $6,185 per year for those in higher-skilled jobs. The higher earning power of newly legalized workers translates into an increase in net personal income of $30 billion to $36 billion, which would generate $4.5 to $5.4 billion in additional net tax revenue nationally, enough to support 750,000 to 900,000 new jobs. CATO Policy Journal

If they are here illegally, it is hard for them to escape poverty and reliance on government assistance.  Increased employment would increase tax revenue.
Second, a pathway to citizenship could help the US attract more high tech workers that are needed in specialized industries. This could increase the strength of our high technology sector, boosting innovation and efficiency, both of which are good for the economy.
Third, an influx of (working) immigrants into the labor force would provide more young workers to support an aging population, particularly Social Security.  A substantial amount of research suggests that high skilled immigrants are job creators and  that any economic loss is overwhelmed by the gains.  The net economic gain is estimated to be $1.5 trillion in GDP.
Amanda Beadle sums up these arguments in 10 Reasons Why the US Needs Immigration Reform that Includes a Path to Citizenship

Several top Republicans have softened their views on immigration reform following November’s election, but in the first push for reform, House Republicans advanced a bill last month that would add visas for highly skilled workers while reducing legal immigration overall. Providing a road map to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. would have sweeping benefits for the nation, especially the economy.¶ Here are the top 10 reasons why the U.S. needs comprehensive immigration reform:¶ 1. Legalizing the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States would boost the nation’s economy. It would add a cumulative $1.5 trillion to the U.S. gross domestic product—the largest measure of economic growth—over 10 years. That’s because immigration reform that puts all workers on a level playing field would create a virtuous cycle in which legal status and labor rights exert upward pressure on the wages of both American and immigrant workers. Higher wages and even better jobs would translate into increased consumer purchasing power, which would benefit the U.S. economy as a whole.¶ 2. Tax revenues would increase. The federal government would accrue $4.5 billion to $5.4 billion in additional net tax revenue over just three years if the 11 million undocumented immigrants were legalized. And states would benefit. Texas, for example, would see a $4.1 billion gain in tax revenue and the creation of 193,000 new jobs if its approximately 1.6 million undocumented immigrants were legalized.¶ 3. Harmful state immigration laws are damaging state economies. States that have passed stringent immigration measures in an effort to curb the number of undocumented immigrants living in the state have hurt some of their key industries, which are held back due to inadequate access to qualified workers. A farmer in Alabama, where the state legislature passed the anti-immigration law HB 56 in 2011, for example, estimated that he lost up to $300,000 in produce in 2011 because the undocumented farmworkers who had skillfully picked tomatoes from his vines in years prior had been forced to flee the state.¶ 4. A path to citizenship would help families access health care. About a quarter of families where at least one parent is an undocumented immigrant are uninsured, but undocumented immigrants do not qualify for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, leaving them dependent on so-called safety net hospitals that will see their funding reduced as health care reforms are implemented. Without being able to apply for legal status and gain health care coverage, the health care options for undocumented immigrants and their families will shrink.¶ 5. U.S. employers need a legalized workforce. Nearly half of agricultural workers, 17 percent of construction workers, and 12 percent of food preparation workers nationwide lacking legal immigration status. But business ownersfrom farmers to hotel chain owners—benefit from reliable and skilled laborers, and a legalization program would ensure that they have them.¶ 6. In 2011, immigrant entrepreneurs were responsible for more than one in four new U.S. businesses. Additionally, immigrant businesses employ one in every 10 people working for private companies. Immigrants and their children founded 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies, which collectively generated $4.2 trillion in revenue in 2010—more than the GDP of every country in the world except the United States, China, and Japan. Reforms that enhance legal immigration channels for high-skilled immigrants and entrepreneurs while protecting American workers and placing all high-skilled workers on a level playing field will promote economic growth, innovation, and workforce stability in the United States.¶ 7. Letting undocumented immigrants gain legal status would keep families together. More than 5,100 children whose parents are undocumented immigrants are in the U.S. foster care system, according to a 2011 report, because their parents have either been detained by immigration officials or deported and unable to reunite with their children. If undocumented immigrants continue to be deported without a path to citizenship enabling them to remain in the U.S. with their families, up to 15,000 children could be in the foster care system by 2016 because their parents were deported, and most child welfare departments do not have the resources to handle this increase.¶ 8. Young undocumented immigrants would add billions to the economy if they gained legal status. Passing the DREAM Act—legislation that proposes to create a roadmap to citizenship for immigrants who came to the United States as children—would put 2.1 million young people on a pathway to legal status, adding $329 billion to the American economy over the next two decades.¶ 9. And DREAMers would boost employment and wages. Legal status and the pursuit of higher education would create an aggregate 19 percent increase in earnings for young undocumented immigrants who would benefit from the DREAM Act by 2030. The ripple effects of these increased wages would create $181 billion in induced economic impact, 1.4 million new jobs, and $10 billion in increased federal revenue.¶ 10. Significant reform of the high-skilled immigration system would benefit certain industries that require high-skilled workers. Immigrants make up 23 percent of the labor force in high-tech manufacturing and information technology industries, and immigrants more highly educated, on average, than the native-born Americans working in these industries. For every immigrant who earns an advanced degree in one of these fields at a U.S. university, 2.62 American jobs are created.

And a path to citizenship for those here illegally means the government would spend less resources trying to deport people, saving a lot of tax money.
Pro teams can also argue that skilled workers would perform specific jobs that are especially beneficial, including biodefense preparedness,  biotechnology development, agriculture, green technology, information technology, nuclear power, and defense industrial work.
Improvements in the economic activity and in all of these sectors is likely to boost overall US global leadership and soft power.
Pro teams can also make arguments against the alternatives to allowing people to stay in the US, which is to deport them and conduct strict anti-immigrant border enforcement.   This has brought death and suffering to thousands.

Johnson 2007(Dean and Mabie-Apallas, Professor of Public Interest Law and Chicana/o Studies, “Opening the Floodgates”, New York University Publication)
As of March 2006, the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation  attributed more than 3,000 deaths to a single southern California border  operation known as Operation Gatekeeper.97 Numerous other operations  have been put into place in the U.S.-Mexico border region. All  have had similar deadly impacts. Despite the death toll, the U.S. government  continues to pursue enforcement operations with great vigor. Indeed,  Congress consistently enacts proposals designed to bolster border  enforcement, with such proposals often representing the only items of  political consensus when it comes to immigration reform.  Operation Gatekeeper demonstrates the U.S. government’s callous indifference  to the human suffering caused by its aggressive border enforcement  policy. In the words of one informed commentator, “[t]he real  tragedy of [Operation] Gatekeeper . . . is the direct link . . . to the staggering  rise in the number of deaths among border crossers. [The U.S.  government] has forced these crossers to attempt entry in areas plagued  by extreme weather conditions and rugged terrain that [the U.S. government]  knows to present mortal danger.”98  In planning Operation Gatekeeper, the U.S. government knew that its  strategy would risk many lives but proceeded nonetheless. As another  observer concludes, “Operation Gatekeeper, as an enforcement immigration  policy financed and politically supported by the U.S. government,  flagrantly violates international human rights because this policy  was deliberately formulated to maximize the physical risks of Mexican  migrant workers, thereby ensuring that hundreds of them would die.”99  Apparently, the government rationalized the deaths of migrants as collateral  damage in the “war” on illegal immigration.  Even before the 1990s, the Border Patrol had a reputation for committing  human rights abuses against immigrants and U.S. citizens of  Mexican ancestry.100 Created to police the U.S.-Mexican border, the Border  Patrol has historically been plagued by reports of brutality, shootings,  beatings, and killings.101 Amnesty International, American Friends  Service Committee, and Human Rights Watch have all issued reports  documenting recent human rights abuses by the Border Patrol.

Pro teams do need to answer the Con argument that people should be provided with permanent status but should not be granted status. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor does support a path to citizenship, at least for kids.


There are a number of different arguments against providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Regardless of specifics, however, there are two things that Con teams should emphasize –
(a)   Providing pathways to citizenship, especially new pathways, encourages people to migrate illegally to the United States and makes it easier for more people who have earned citizenship to sponsor those who do not yet have it

Business Week Online, 1-8-04,
Still, there are significant economic consequences involved in bringing 10 million illegal residents into the mainstream. Several studies have found that the large-scale flow of cheap labor into the U.S. has contributed to holding down wages among the working poor. While a guest-worker program could temporarily boost labor costs by raising wages and benefits for formerly illegal workers, in the long run, it’s more likely to lower labor costs. That’s because an amnesty program could increase illegal labor flows into the country by making it clear that anyone who gets into the U.S. is likely to remain in the long run. That’s exactly what happened after Congress extended amnesty to 3 million illegals in 1986, warns John Keeley, a spokesperson for the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington.

If you win this argument, you can win all of your immigration bad arguments.
Con teams can make strong arguments agains the claim that providing a pathway to citizenship will not improve the economy.
One argument that Pro teams can make is that immigration reform will bring more young workers into the economy, reducing the deficit.  The problem with the claim that reform reduces the deficit is that reform itself costs billions.
More people in the US also means that there will be higher demands on social services and welfare.

These increased demands on public services will fall particularly hard on state governments.  Costs associated with criminal activity also strain government budgets (pay access).  And since most undocumented immigrants already file tax returns there is not likely to be any significant increase in tax revenue. The “aging crisis” is also arguably exaggerated.
Any potential gains in economic activity are offset by a number of factors.
First, as more workers become available wages tend to decline because there are more potential workers to hire, allowing companies to pay any interested worker less . This is particularly true in the agriculture sector.  Second, increased immigration arguably contributes to deflation because consumers cut-back spending in fear that they will lose their jobs to immigrants. And if the lower wages argument is true, there will be even more deflation due to less money available to spend.
Third, a central premise of the economy arguments is that we need to increase immigration because the US has a shortage of skilled workers, but there is a strong case to be made that this shortage is not significant .  A new study claims that this is a myth that needs to be demolished. And,  if necessary, workers could work in international waters  – or simply be allowed to work in the US without becoming citizens!
The nuclear industry probably does not need more high tech workers.
(b)   Citizenship is not necessary. This argument needs more work/unpacking, but it is a very strong argument for the Con. If the Con can win that providing citizenship isn’t necessary to capture all of the reasons that immigration reform is good (more agriculture workers, high tech workers) and can win that providing citizenship is bad then they can win a lot of debates.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, head of the House Judiciary Committee (which has jurisdiction over immigration), told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that he flatly opposes a path to citizenship — even for DREAMers.
“Even for them, I would say that they get a legal status in the United States and not a pathway to citizenship that is created especially for them,” Goodlatte said. “In other words, they get that legal status if they have an employer who says I’ve got a job which I can’t find a U.S. citizen and I want to petition for them, ah, they can do that, but I wouldn’t give them the pathway to a Green Card and ultimately citizenship.”  Washington Post, August 21

Con teams should not let Pro teams defend existing pathways to citizenship because those pathways are not likely to produce citizenship.

For now, advocates say that making immigrants here illegally go through the existing system would help relatively few of them.
Current law says that if you’ve been in the country illegally for more than a year, you have to return to your home country for 10 years before you can re-enter legally, which would likely dissuade many people.
Moreover, existing family sponsorship channels are badly backlogged, and many are capped. People applying for citizenship through their siblings face waits of more than 20 years in some cases, for example. On the employment side, existing visa programs are difficult to use and inadequate to meet demand, and also face long backlogs. Huffington Post, September 2, 2013

Pro teams can argue that they increase immigration through effect (citizenship status pulling more illegals into the US) and argue that immigration is good. Many of those arguments, including the high tech worker and developing country poverty arguments, have been discussed above.  If Pro teams do decide to make these arguments as art of a defense of providing a pathway to citizenship, Con teams could argue that (a) the resolution only supports providing a pathway to citizenship to immigrants that are already here (not, for example, high tech immigrant workers who could come in the future) and (b) it is still fine for them to come, perhaps on temporary visas for high skilled workers (and maybe the US government should provide more of those), but that does not mean that the US government should provide them with a pathway to citizenship. Again, if the Con can win that a pathway to citizenship should not be provided, they can win a lot of debates without denying many of the Pro arguments.  The economic benefits, for example, can be captured by either citizenship or permanent residency.

Bloomberg, 10/23/2012. Blame Politics for the U.S. Engineer Shortage
Given the tepid economic recovery, it’s sad that Congress cannot enact a pro-growth immigration policy. Giving citizenship or permanent residency to more high-skilled immigrants is perhaps the single-easiest way to grow the American economy. Science and technology companies face labor shortages in their industries, preventing expansion, and the students themselves want to stay here and make valuable contributions to research and business. All we have to do is let these people stay here and let American companies hire them.

Remember from the quote that introduced a discussion of the meaning of  “a pathway to citizenship”

In “Immigration Wars,” Bush says that undocumented immigrants should not get citizenship at all. Instead, he proposes a path to permanent legal status, but not citizenship. As it stands now, green card holders are able to apply for citizenship after five years. But in the book, Bush lays out a plan that would create a new type of permanent legal status that would not lead to “the cherished fruits of citizenship.” The plan would effectively create a second-class of citizenship — someone with the ability to stay in the country permanently but without the full rights of a citizen.  (

As discussed in the introduction, Negative teams can also challenge the idea that a path to CITIZENSHIP is the ideal path that one could taken when dealing with undocumented workers.  There are two approaches that the Con could take in arguing against a path toward citizenship. One approach is philosophical and the other is more policy oriented.
The philosophical approach (which may be difficult to win in a Public Forum debate in front of “lay” judges who are usually more interested in practical policy issues) centers around the idea that it is bad to provide people  citizenship, with the alternative being to simply allow everyone to move across borders at will.
The philosophical objection to citizenship centers around the basic idea that it is bad to define some people as being included in a community because that inherently defines others (“non-citizens” in this instance) as excluded and not part of the community.

Ajana 06, (PhD in Sociology from London School of Economics and Political Science Btihaj. “Immigration Interrupted.” Journal for Cultural Research 10.3 (2006): 259-273. Print.)
Central to this politics of particularity is the principle of inclusion (of good particulars) and exclusion (of bad particulars) through which ‘the idea of norma- tive universality’ (Zylinska 2004, p. 524) is established in relation to constitutive particularity. Particularity in a sense could be understood as the partitioning of differences and the demarcating of spatiality based on the ‘universal’ values of autonomy and self-governing, manifested in the notion of statehood. The production and formulation of the particular citizen within particular state is initially performed through modes of inclusion and exclusion whereby individual, communal and national identities are conceived of in terms of dichotomies of self and other, of inside and outside, of belonging and alien, and so on. The state, as such, represents itself as the locus par excellence of spatial particularity – terri- toriality – through the politicisation of its borders, the principle by which the concept of citizen is made possible. For without a state, the particular character of the citizen dissolves into universality (being a human) and without citizens, there could be no state (Coward 1999, p. 9). This interdependent relationship between state and citizens is in fact what produces the spurious needs and rationalisation of division and containment which find their expression in the ruling of sovereignty. Such a relationship also [this]explains why each time the question of immigration is raised by governments, there is a tendency to invoke the notion of ‘people’ i.e. ‘citizens’ in order to substantiate the will to exclusion and total enclosure

Those who fall outside of the border are treated as essentially sub-human/non-human, which makes their extermination possible.

Ajana, Lecturer in Culture, Digital Humanities & Creative Industries at King’s College London. 2005 [Btihaj, 2005 “Surveillance and Biopolitics,” Electronic Journal of Sociology.]
In this case mobility itself becomes intrinsically linked to processes of the ‘sorting’ of individualised citizens from massified aliens. We can almost forgive theorists such as Bauman (1998, in Boyne, 2000: 286) for wanting to articulate a dichotomous logic that hinges on the notion of border, for, at times and at least with regard to circulation (that is, the circulation of ‘people’, for as far as ‘commodities’ and ‘capital’ are concerned, their free movement is encouraged and sustained by the global capitalist machine), the world seems to be divided into two. Those who have European/American/Australian/Canadian passports and those who do not. We all know all too well what difference this makes in terms of border crossing. Nevertheless, such conceptualisation misses the point that borders are not merely that which is erected at the edges of territorial partitioning and spatial particularity, but more so borders are ubiquitous (Balibar, 2002: 84) and infinitely actualised within mundane processes of ‘internal’ administration and bureaucratic organization  blurring the dualistic logic of the inside and the outside on which Western sovereignty is calibrated. The point is that in addition to this crude dual division within the global world order there are further divisions, further segmentations, a ‘hypersegmentation’ (Hardt, 1998: 33) at the heart of that monolithic (Western) half which functions by means of excluding the already-excluded on the one hand and incorporating the already-included and the waiting-to-be-included excluded on the other. This is done more or less dialectically, more or less perversely, including and excluding concurrently ‘through a principle of activity’ (Rose, 1999: 240) and interwoven circuits of security. Surveillance is the enduring of exclusion for some and the performance of inclusion for others to the point where it becomes almost impossible to demonstrate one’s ‘inclusion’ without having to go through the labyrinth of security controls and identity validation, intensified mainly, but not solely, at the borders. It is in similar contexts that Balibar (2002: 81) invokes the notion of ‘world apartheid’ in which the dual regime of circulation is creating different phenomenological experiences for different people through the ‘polysemic nature’ (Balibar, 2002: 81) of borders. For as we have discussed, borders are not merely territorial dividers but spatial zones of surveillance designed to establish ‘an international class differentiation’ and deploy ‘instruments of discrimination and triage’ (Balibar, 2002: 82) whereby the rich asserts a ‘surplus of right’ (Balibar, 2002: 83) and the poor continue to exercise the Sisyphean activity of circulating upwards and downwards until the border becomes his/her place of ‘dwelling’ (Kachra, 2005: 123) or until s/he becomes the border itself. Sadly, to be a border is to ‘live a life which is a waiting-to-live, a non-life’ (Balibar, 2002: 83). The biopolitics of borders is precisely the management of that waiting-to-live, the management of that non-life (the waiting-to-live and the non-life of those who are forcibly placed in detention centres), and at times, it is the management of death. The death of thousand of refugees and ‘clandestine’ migrants drowned in the sea (for instance, in the Strait of Gibraltar which is argued to be becoming the world’s largest mass grave), asphyxiated in trucks (as was the fate of 58 Chinese immigrants who died in 2000 inside an airtight truck at the port of Dover), crushed under trains (the case of the Channel Tunnel) and killed in deserts (in the US-Mexican border for example). It is the management of ‘bodies that do not matter’. It is the management of the bodies of those to whom the status of the ‘homo sacer’ (Agamben, 1998: 8) is attributed. It is the management of those whose death has fallen into the abyss of insignificance and whose killing is not sacrificial (except to the few). On the other hand, the biopolitics of borders is also the management of ‘life’; the life of those who are capable of performing ‘responsible self-government’ (Rose, 1999: 259) and self-surveillance i.e. those who can demonstrate their ‘legitimacy’ through ‘worthy’ computer-readable passports/ID cards that provide the ontological basis for the exercising and fixing of identity and citizenship at the border.

The alternative is to simply allow people to cross the border at will.

Ajana 06, (PhD in Sociology from London School of Economics and Political Science Btihaj. “Immigration Interrupted.” Journal for Cultural Research 10.3 (2006): 259-273. Print.)
Instead of regarding being-in-common as the gathering together of individuals who share some common property or essence –and in which the clinamen is removed from such gathering, Nancy (1991, p. 26–7) offers an alternative under- standing of this concept. He asserts that being-in-common is first and foremost being exposed to alterity through a relationship of sharing, made possible by the Heideggerian notion of being-with (Mitsein) which goes beyond commonality and identity politics. Such an understanding, albeit abstract due to its breaking away from any spatial particularity, does indeed save individuals or rather singularities from the danger of communal fusion (witnessed for instance in the movements of fascism and Nazism) and the restraints of self-enclosure [like] (immigration controls for instance). For in Nancy’s conceptualisation, singular beings are not regarded as absolute figures of immanentist politics (i.e. citizens) but as beings whose experience of being-in-common is constituted through their predicate-free existential/ ontological position of being-there (Dasein) and what they reveal to each other in their exteriority (which forms their interiority) and their multiplicity (which forms their uniqueness). The being-such of a singular being is irreducibly a being- with that draws its sense of ‘selfness’ from the existence of ‘otherness’ without, however, having to live up to a differentiating identity or a shared individuality that would place it within the confines of categorisation i.e. suchness: ‘such-and- such being is reclaimed from its having this or that property … (the reds, the French, the Muslims)’ (Agamben 1993, p. 1). Thus, the realisation or rather actualisation of being-in-common is only possible insofar as singular beings are ‘whatever’ (ibid.) beings (not having any particular identity) whose ‘membership’ could not be determined by or reduced to having/sharing ‘common’ characteristics. But a membership that can only be experienced at the moment of exposure to singu- larity, at the moment of its ‘taking place’ ‘…(which is itself without a place, with- out a space reserved for or devoted to its presence)’ (Nancy 1991, p. 72). Exposure, sharing and being-with are thus constitutive of being-in-common in such a way that belonging itself becomes a ‘bare’ belonging stripped from any predetermined condition of membership (Agamben 1993, p. 84) or demarcated territoriality. It is a belonging where ‘whatever’ (singularity such as it is – and this ‘such’ is uniden- tifiable and fluid) belongs to ‘whateverness’ (unconditional being-in-common). Immigration, in this sense, can be regarded as an aspect of exposure, sharing and being-with, to which there could/should be no fixed limit or neat bordering.

This line of argumentation against citizenship is very interesting and has a lot of strategic value because the Con can agree with all of the Pro arguments that undocumented immigrants should be able to stay in the US but not agree that they should be citizens. There are, however, a few things that caution against pursuing this line of argumentation. One, as mentioned, many judges will not be open to it. Two, the alternative to this criticism of citizenship is that the borders should be completely open. This is obviously inconsistent with any immigration bad arguments that you could otherwise make. Three, in the real world, it is simply difficult to argue that people should be able to pass from country to country unfettered, especially in a world of high tech weaponry that can be easily transported.

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Pathway to Citizenship Remains Central Question in Immigration Debate


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The economic contributions of immigrants to Minnesota



Federation for American Immigration Reform
Numbers USA