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Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal

Debunking the "Permanent Subclass" Talking Point

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The New York Times reported yesterday that a potential House GOP immigration reform solution may result in 6.5 million undocumented people obtaining lawful status. The article references a study issued by the National Foundation for American Policy, which is based on information articulated by Representative Robert W. Goodlatte (R-VA), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. The GOP's solution looks surprisingly familiar to something readers of this blog have already seen.

From public information, the GOP appears willing to offer a compromise that brings people out of the shadows, and once out give them employment and travel authorization. The solution stops short of creating a special path to a Green Card and citizenship. This doesn't mean the GOP intends to prohibit people from ever applying for a Green Card and ultimately citizenship. It simply means that those receiving status will have to apply just like everyone else. Only under the GOP plan it is believed that the undocumented would be able to apply from inside the United States without the threat of deportation hanging over their head.

For example, if you are married to a United States citizen or have a child that is over 21 the moment you receive the new hypothetical documented status you would become eligible for a Green Card. You could also be sponsored by an employer if they want to hire you for a job where there is a shortage of willing United States citizens so long as a visa number is available. These are just a couple examples of many, and according to the estimate there could be many. Mind you, not everyone would qualify for the new documented status. You can rest assured that individuals with serious criminal convictions will be excluded for example, but these people weren't going to qualify under the Senate version of reform either so take that out of the equation.

Detractors are already issuing talking points calling this a "half loaf" solution that will create a permanent underclass. This is a non sequitur being advanced to cast blame on the GOP merely because their solution does not create a new special path to citizenship to the undocumented. Do not be fooled by it. From the little we know if the GOP compromise becomes law everyone eligible for legalization would also become eligible to apply for a Green Card if they have a sponsor available. And remember, Green Card holders can't vote, and there is nothing in the law that requires a Green Card holder to ever apply for citizenship at some point after they receive their status so that they can vote. In fact, many choose not to. Is there anyone out there that thinks that a Green Card holder who declines the opportunity to apply for citizenship is part of a permanent subclass of society? I think not.

As for the issue of citizenship itself, this is all about a fight for new voters, which is also a non-issue. I say this because as of January 2012 there were 13.3 million Green Card holders in the United States, 5.4 million of which are from Mexico. Two-thirds of all Green Card holders from Mexico never apply for citizenship. Why is this important? Because it is believed that more than half of the 11.1 million undocumented people in the U.S. are from Mexico, who apply for citizenship at rates significantly lower than nationals from other countries. The point being, if you give a Green Card to every single undocumented person in this country statistically only a relatively small percentage will ever apply for citizenship, and vote in an election.

So here is the bottom line: a legalization program that stops deportation, provides employment authorization and the ability to travel, while not preventing an individual from applying for a Green Card and ultimately citizenship is a deal worth taking. Those most impacted by this debate, the ones getting deported in record numbers, are asking for an opportunity to lead normal lives, and to be able to apply for a Green Card just like everyone else.

Maybe it is time that we listen to them.

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Updated 01-17-2014 at 08:18 AM by MKolken


  1. sfcooper's Avatar
    While Matthew's idea might buy acceptance by the House, and even taking out what might be quota exempt applicants like the spouse of a US citizen, perhaps another 3-4 million additional green card applicants will completely swamp agency processes and create dramatically longer quota backlogs even as they are intended to be reformed under the Senate bill. Yes, a great number of Mexican nationals do not naturalize but it is still a high number. Also, those who don't have the family basis or a job offer will have this interim status. Many entrepreneurs with small businesses do not have a path to a green card and may not be eligible and they help create jobs. If we can see visa numbers increased and other creative paths to green cards, then it might be feasible.
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