Last week, the Wall Street Journal published a piece delving into another angle of the immigration debate over the estimated 11 million immigrants in the nation without proper authorization or rights to be here.
It pointed out that even for those who have already gotten in line and acquired permanent residence status (a green card), they still delay filing for full citizenship status citing costs as the main reason. It cost at minimum $680 for an oral exam, to prepare 5 years of tax returns, get fingerprints, background checks an application fees and come up with all the other administrative costs of getting naturalized.
So without those funds, but still fully able to work, function, travel and live a life not burdened by illegitimacy, they just don’t bother apply for it.
So is a path to citizenship a deal killer in the comprehensive immigration reform debate?
Stanford Law Professor Dan Siciliano argued that denying immigrants’ access to citizenship would delay assimilation and reduce the ability for more to get involved with business enterprises.
While ideally, granting previously undocumented immigrants full access to citizenship perhaps is best, it is probably very safe to assume that any form of legitimization, up and including permanent residence (Green Card) status, would be much appreciated.
The argument is often made that permitting undocumented people to get status would be equivalent to rewarding law breakers.
But consider that for all the years that many have lived here, they have been extremely limited, unable to return home to bury a dead relative or check on property or assets they left behind. They live in the shadows and constant fear that should their cover be blown, they may have to quit a gig, pack up their belongings, pull their children out of school and relocate.
For some, it’s akin to living a fugitive life. So there is indeed some “punishment” being suffered even if it is at their own hand for electing to come here without authorization or overstaying a visitor or student visa.
Therefore, with some status come a big sigh of relief to continue to live the American dream but without the cloud of worry, suspicion, anxiety.
While the President and members of Congress battle and prepare to haggle over what sort of rights, if any, to extend to this massive group, it should be acknowledged that any minimum of legitimacy, even if not perfect, is quite better than what they have today.