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Give Undocumented Immigrants a Path to Citizenship

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Live Transcript
  • Skipping to the Head of the Line

    Clip: Angela Kelley and Rich Lowry debate whether a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants is unfair to people trying to immigrate to the U.S. legally.

  • Paying Taxes

    Clip: Steven Camarota and Marielena Hincapié discuss how much undocumented immigrants pay in taxes and receive in government benefits.

  • What Are the Alternatives?

    Clip: Angela Kelley, Marielena Hincapié, and Steven Camarota debate the potential alternatives to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Debate Details

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 Debaters

For the motion

Angela Kelley

Executive Director, Center for American Progress Action Fund

Angela Maria Kelley is the executive director of the Center for American Progress Action Fund and a senior vice president at the Center for American... Read More

Marielena Hincapié

Executive Director, National Immigration Law Center

Marielena Hincapié is the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, the main organization dedicated to defending and advancing the... Read More

Against the motion

Steven Camarota

Director of Research, Center for Immigration Studies

Steven Camarota serves as the director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a research institute that examines the consequences... Read More

Rich Lowry

Editor, National Review

Rich Lowry became editor of National Review in 1998 when selected by William F. Buckley, Jr. to lead the magazine. Today, National... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • It’s not economically or logistically practical to deport 11 million people, and enforcement alone won't work.
  • Immigrants would earn their citizenship by going through a rigorous process that includes background checks, paying a penalty and taxes, and learning English.
  • Bringing immigrants legally into the workforce will stimulate the economy, increasing consumption of goods and services, and increasing tax revenue.
  • The border has never been more secure, the number of crossings has decreased, and we already spend over 17 billion dollars a year on enforcement. 
  • Keeping families of mixed immigration status together is the moral thing to do. 
Against The Motion
  • We need to focus on securing our borders and enforcing the immigration laws that we already have.
  • There is no way to adequately vet 11 million people for citizenship.
  • By granting immigrants who are here illegally a path to citizenship, we are essentially rewarding bad behavior and encouraging more of the same.
  • Wages have stagnated or declined for less-educated U.S. workers, many of whom are forced to compete with immigrants for jobs.
  • Immigrants pay less in taxes than they receive in government benefits and services.

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The Research

The Research

Unauthorized Aliens in the United States: Policy Discussion

Andorra Bruno
May 8, 2014

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

The Demographic, Economic, and Fiscal Impact of Immigration

February 2, 2016

A PowerPoint presentation on the demographic, economic, and fiscal impact of immigration.

The “Border Security First” Argument: A Red Herring Undermining Real Security

March 29, 2011

Opponents of comprehensive immigration reform argue that we need a fully secure border before we can systemically overhaul our immigration laws. Ironically, the “border security first” mantra is actually thwarting progress on border security.

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