The Cost of Citizenship Denied
This series examines how our failure to acknowledge and accommodate 11 million undocumented Americans has far-reaching consequences—for an expensive and counterproductive enforcement regime, a fragile and unequal economy, the future and potential of young immigrants, a straining healthcare system, and our tenuous democracy.
None of these issues will be resolved by a legalization bill alone—there is no silver bullet solution. But that doesn’t absolve us of responsibility to seize this opportunity and take the steps we can to build the America we want. And no step would have as much immediate impact or alleviate as much downstream social dysfunction as creating a path to citizenship for the undocumented.
Unless and until we resolve the status of the undocumented population, the immigration debate will continue to warp or paralyze policy debates in other arenas at our collective expense. Creating a path to citizenship for law-abiding, hard-working people who, by every other metric, are already Americans, isn’t a politically explosive idea: seventy five percent of Americans support it. Yet the GOP’s determination to leverage the issue as a political wedge has prevented us from enacting this common-sense solution. And the country has paid a heavy price.
As we recover from the immediate threat of the virus and grapple with a national conversation about race, fairness, and justice, we can no longer ignore the broken systems that enabled this disaster. The congress and administration that inherits this national wreckage in 2021 must prioritize a path to citizenship as an integral part of our national revival. No other policy reforms will be complete without it.