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Give Undocumented Immigrants a Path to Citizenship

The BriefGet Up To Speed

There are an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, and the question of what to do with them has sparked years of fierce debate, but no significant action.  In 2013, the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” managed to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the Senate, only to get it dropped by the House.  And in 2016, a deadlocked Supreme Court decision stalled President Obama’s executive actions, DACA and DAPA, which would have saved 5 million from deportation.  For voters, on this issue, the choice between presidential candidates could not be clearer.  Should we give these immigrants a chance to earn citizenship through a process that would include paying a penalty, passing a security check, and getting in the back of the line? Or are we rewarding them for breaking the rules, and encouraging more of the same?  Do they make positive contributions to the economy and complement our workforce, or do they burden taxpayers and create unwanted competition for jobs?  Should we give undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship?


The law governing immigration is pretty much irrelevant to the reality of immigration on the ground. But we can’t just patch the system.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Eduardo Porter

The U.S. unauthorized immigrant population – 11.1 million in 2014 – has stabilized since the end of the Great Recession, as the number from Mexico declined but the total from other regions of the world increased, according to new Pew Research Center estimates based on government data.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Jeffrey Passel and D’Vera Cohn

An overview of different approaches and strategies for addressing the unauthorized resident population, and relevant U.S. law.

Thursday, May 8, 2014
Andorra Bruno

This report is a chart book of selected immigration trends.

Monday, March 14, 2016
William Kandel and Ruth Wasem

This report provides an overview of challenges by states to federal officials’ alleged failure to enforce the INA or other provisions of immigration law.

Monday, August 1, 2016
Kate Manuel

The U.S. government has a long history of successfully legalizing violators of immigration laws.

Monday, July 28, 2014
Alex Nowrasteh

What's wrong with granting amnesty to hard-working, tax-paying individuals whose only crime is their immigration status? Indeed, amnesty is not only the best solution to our immigration problem, it is the only feasible solution.

Thursday, February 7, 2013
Ed Krayewski

Making immigrants suffer in legal limbo, with the constant threat of deportation hanging over them and their loved ones, serves no practical or moral purpose.

Thursday, November 20, 2014
Francis Wilkinson

It is time for Congress and the Administration to stop chasing costly, harmful immigration policies and start pursuing fair and practical solutions to America’s broken immigration system and porous borders.

Any discussion of illegal immigration and how to handle the large number of illegal immigrants currently in the country must first begin with effective border enforcement.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Brandon Judd

Unlawful immigration and amnesty for current unlawful immigrants can pose large fiscal costs for U.S. taxpayers.

Monday, May 6, 2013
Robert Rector and Jason Richwine
Past Immigration Debates

Kris Kobach and Tom Tancredo debate Julián Castro and Tamar Jacoby.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Vernon Briggs, Mark Krikorian, and Heather Mac Donald debate Daniel Griswold, Enrique Morones, and Karen Narasaki.

Monday, October 8, 2007
Legal Status

Award illegals permanent noncitizen resident status—with no option ever of naturalizing.

Monday, February 25, 2013
Peter Skerry

As the immigration reform debate intensifies, some lawmakers propose a middle ground between deportation and citizenship for illegal immigrants. Critics say that will create a permanent underclass.

Thursday, February 7, 2013
Peter Grier
Party Positions

While the Republican platform is grounded in heightened concerns about border and national security, perceived weak enforcement of immigration laws, and high levels of legal immigration, the Democratic platform focuses on increased rights and protections for the unauthorized population and recent flows of Central Americans, as well as immigrant integration.

Thursday, July 28, 2016
Muzaffar Chishti and Sarah Pierce

Trump campaign position on immigration.

Donald Trump

Clinton campaign position on immigration.

Hillary Clinton

In executing its enforcement duties, ICE focuses on two core missions: 1) the identification and apprehension of criminal aliens and other priority aliens located in the United States; and 2) the detention and removal of those individuals apprehended in the interior of the United States as well as those apprehended by CBP officers and agents patrolling our nation's borders.

The Obama administration says it doesn't have the resources or the desire to deport millions of immigrants whose only crime was entering the country illegally. So, it has focused its enforcement efforts on particular targets: namely those caught near the border, those who've committed crimes and those who appear to have arrived in 2014 or later.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Scott Horsley

CIS finds that Immigration and Customs Enforcement deportations continue to decline this year and are on pace to be the lowest since 2006, according to the latest ICE statistics

Friday, July 1, 2016
Jessica Vaughan

In limiting cooperation with the federal immigration authorities, some local law enforcement officials contend that they are making their jurisdictions safer by encouraging undocumented immigrants to take the risk of coming forward to report crimes.

Thursday, September 1, 2016
Julia Preston

Arizona’s economy took a hit when many illegal immigrants left, but benefits also materialized.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Bob Davis

Most other research finds that immigrant flows harm at least some workers, as economic theory usually predicts they should when immigration changes the balance of skills in an economy. The debate is over precisely who suffers, and how much.

Saturday, August 27, 2016
Central America

The Obama administration is delaying deportation proceedings for recent immigrants in cities across the United States, allowing more than 56,000 of those who fled Central America since 2014 to remain in the country legally for several more years.

Thursday, October 6, 2016
Caitlin Dickerson

This report lays out short-term recommendations for ensuring that all asylum seekers who reach the United States receive a full and fair shot at protection.

Thursday, May 5, 2016
Philip Wolgin

In our opinion, this recent expansion of "refugee resettlement opportunities" is not about protecting children and vulnerable populations (who, to begin with, do not qualify as refugees) but about providing, and paying for, a legal path to Central Americans who want to come to the United States and join their family members.

Sunday, August 28, 2016
Nayla Rush

This fact sheet examines influencing factors on the recent trends in unaccompanied child and family arrivals from Central America to the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as Mexico's role in enforcement.

Friday, January 1, 2016
Marc Rosenblum and Isabel Ball

Two-thirds of Americans oppose immigration plans advocated by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump -- building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and deporting immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. In contrast, 84% favor a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants living in the U.S., a plan backed by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Jeffrey Jones

Overall, 29% of the public prioritizes “creating a way for immigrants already here illegally to become citizens if they meet certain requirements,” while (24%) say the focus should be on “better border security and stronger enforcement of immigration laws.” However, when given the option, a 45% plurality does say that both should be given equal priority.

Thursday, August 25, 2016