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Pathway to Citizenship is Key to Genuine Immigration Reform

Providing a pathway to citizenship to the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country remains the most contentious issue in immigration reform. Republican Senator Ted Cruz even termed it the “poison pill” that will kill any efforts towards passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill. He contended that even if the Senate passes the bill, he thinks that the House will never pass it.

The sentiment of Senator Ted Cruz reflects the stand of the majority of his Republican base. According to him, the only way that a comprehensive immigration reform bill can pass the House is to abandon the ‘path to citizenship’ for the undocumented immigrant. It should focus instead on securing the border and streamlining the immigration process.

Meanwhile, support for providing a path to citizenship for undocumented workers in the country is growing with 6 out of 10 Americans supporting it based on a recent Washington Post-ABC poll. Democratic support reached an all-time high of 73 percent.

The support within the Republican Party, however, remains low. The support is so low among Republicans that some say Senator Marc Rubio’s involvement in the immigration reform deal might hurt his chances of becoming the GOP presidential nominee in 2016.

According to political observers, the chances that Senator Rubio will walk away from the reform legislation proposed by the ‘Gang of Eight’ which is composed of four Democratic and four Republican Senators is slim. Although Senator Rubio’s support to provide a path to citizenship may cost him the ire of primary Republican voters, his involvement is seen to win back support of Latino voters who withdrew support for the GOP for its anti-immigrant position.

Recently, the ‘Gang of Eight’ announced that it has completed its comprehensive immigration reform bill. A bipartisan group in the House is also preparing its own version of the bill. Both House and Senate immigration plans offer a path to citizenship.

The House version is said to provide three paths to citizenship. One path is offered to young immigrants or the so-called Dreamers who were brought into this country illegally when they were still children and agricultural workers who play a critical role in the economy.

The second path is offered to immigrants who entered the country illegally but whose family ties or employment relationships allow them to apply for legal status. The barrier including the three to ten year ban will be waived or lifted. They will be required to return to their home countries to apply for legal status and comply with other requirements.

The third path is offered to all other undocumented immigrants who may apply for “provisional legal status” so long as they have not committed any crime and they comply with requirements such as they payment of fines and learning English. Under the House version, it is said that the undocumented immigrants will have to wait ten years to be issued their green cards and wait another five years to apply for citizenship.

In order to fix the broken immigration system, the dilemma facing 11 million undocumented immigrants has to be addressed. Indeed, the pathway to citizenship, no matter how long or difficult, is essential to genuine immigration reform. This is the reality that the GOP-run House has to contend with unless they want a remake of the 2012 presidential elections in 2016.

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