Illegal U.S. Immigrants Need a Path to Citizenship

     

    Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a skeptic of the group’s bill, argues that undocumented immigrants burden our public benefits systems and, if granted legal status, would abuse them. Those who oppose a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, in the wake of data that supports the contrary, can’t help but emit the scent of xenophobia. A path to citizenship represents the alignment of two major societal goals: a better economy and more social justice.

    A comprehensive account of the benefits and costs of immigration in the 2005 Economic Report of the President shows the benefits of immigration exceed its costs. A path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants will allow immigrants to earn significantly higher wages, which will lead to more spending as well as more demand for products like clothing, housing, cars and computers. This will, in turn, create jobs and help the economy grow. Undocumented immigrants are also earning far less than their potential in wages (an estimated $4 per hour), paying fewer taxes and contributing significantly less to the U.S. economy than they potentially could. If more immigrant workers are hired in the U.S. instead of through outsourcing, for example, this will benefit the economy because immigrant workers will buy domestically and pay taxes — something outsourced laborers would not do. 

    There are currently an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants residing in the U.S. These immigrants are mistreated and are very vulnerable as a result of their undocumented status, and many endure poor treatment to avoid even worse conditions in their home countries. A large national survey conducted by the Center for Urban Economic Development in 2006 reports frequent employer abuse toward undocumented laborers in America, including stolen wages, employer violence and work without food, water or breaks. There is scant enforcement of health and safety laws, and jobs are usually temporary, so safety and income flow are very insecure. If allowed a path to citizenship, these immigrants would be protected from employer abuse by law.

    A middle-ground alternative to offering undocumented immigrants citizenship allows them legal status, but not full citizenship. While it is a step forward, providing legal status alone is not enough — it will create an entire class of sub-citizens in the U.S. Undocumented immigrants will still live in fear of deportation, and they will not be allowed to vote. A 2013 analysis by the Center for American Progress projected net economic gains from granting legal status to undocumented immigrants, but it projected even higher gains if immigrants are offered a path to citizenship. Citizenship gives them the opportunity and motivation to invest in their workplace skills, protects them from deportation and gives them more choice and stability in the job market.

    It’s time for immigration reform, and it is both fiscally and morally responsible to offer a path to citizenship for our undocumented immigrants.

    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $2320
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal

    Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    More to Discover
    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $2320
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal