In a conference call yesterday, Marco Rubio said that his comprehensive immigration reform bill will “require a lot of communication.” To that end, Rubio communicated his view about the path to citizenship provision.
Rubio argued that illegal immigrants living in the country already have a “path to citizenship.” They can return home, immigrate legally back to the U.S. in ten years, and then apply for a green card, the first step to citizenship. Thus, according to Rubio, all his proposal does is make the path to a green card, and ultimately to citizenship, longer for illegal immigrants.
I think this argument fails at two levels. By voluntarily leaving the U.S., remaining outside of it for ten years, and then entering legally, an immigrant demonstrates respect for U.S. law. The case for enabling a reformed (in effect) law breaker eventually to seek citizenship through the regular process seems strong. The case in favor of a chronic and unreformed violator of our laws seems weak.
As a practical matter, moreover, few illegal immigrants “take advantage” of the “path to citizenship” available to them now. They prefer to remain in the U.S. illegally. The “bargain” they struck when they illegally entered — the ability to take advantage of life in the U.S. but without legal status or a path to citizenship — remains sufficiently attractive to keep them here.
Thus, to the extent Rubio pretends that all he proposes is to lengthen the road to citizenship for illegal aliens, he commits sophistry. In the real world, nearly all illegal aliens have no path to citizenship that is acceptable to them. Rubio proposes to change that reality.