The problem with the ‘path to legalization’

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake has posed a compromise solution for the immigration debate: “House Republicans finally come around to comprehensive immigration reform, but — and this is a BIG but — they do it without a path to citizenship.”

The problem, of course, is that one of the things Republicans are hoping to do with immigration reform is put the issue to bed. But this “solution” would only ensure the issue sticks around as a cudgel for Democrats to bash Republicans with — for years to come.

Think of it this way. Let’s suppose that we “legalize” eleven million immigrants — but don’t give them full citizenship. We will be creating second-class citizens who can contribute to our society, yet aren’t allowed to fully participate in our democracy. At least, that’s how it will be portrayed.

Now you might say that most immigrants don’t even want to become citizens — that they just want to make money here. Well, if that’s the case, then why not pass comprehensive immigration reform? Nobody is going to hold a gun to immigrant’s heads and make them go through the dozen-years-long process of citizenship. If they don’t want to become a citizen, then…problem solved!

If we want immigrants to assimilate (and we should), the “path to legalization” is a bad idea. But it’s an even worse political idea. It guarantees that the Democrats will keep the issue alive to demagogue and divide. Think I’m exaggerating? On MSNBC earlier today, Joy Reid alleged that Republicans want indentured servants. “Wasn’t it called indentured servitude, right, where you come and pay all this money and you are not a citizen, but you’re legally allowed to work on the farm,” she said.

Conservatives who oppose immigration reform might be tempted to take this as a compromise. They shouldn’t. This is the worst of both worlds.

Matt K. Lewis