The Promise of a Path to Citizenship
The Biden Administration’s introduction of the U.S. Citizenship Act––a piece of legislation that enshrines the common-sense immigration solutions America has long needed––represents a watershed moment for a better, stronger nation. At its core, the proposed legislation charts a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented Americans.
Expanding citizenship is a fitting place to start making good on President Biden’s promise to Build Back Better. Its value extends far beyond immigrants and immigration; it would strengthen our education, economic, and civic policy landscapes.
Creating a path to citizenship would enable us to right-size our inefficient and aimlessly cruel immigration enforcement system while freeing up hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars for years to come.
Creating a path to citizenship would enable us to right-size our inefficient and aimlessly cruel immigration enforcement system while freeing up hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars for years to come. Within a decade, a newly legal workforce would generate an additional $1.4 trillion in cumulative GDP growth. The estimated 98,000 undocumented students who graduated high school each year after President Trump’s suspension of DACA would have permanent protections––and federal support––for pursuing their most ambitious career aspirations, which would in turn boost our struggling economy. In the midst of a continued pandemic, our immigrant neighbors would be eligible for health insurance, including COVID testing and vaccinations, advancing our collective well-being. And this comparably young and healthy population would offset the medical costs of our current aging citizen population. And from a democracy perspective, undocumented immigrants who earn citizenship would finally have the right to vote and shape the direction of a country that has weaponized their existence for years.
Of course, the passage of the U.S. Citizenship Act is no panacea. As we recover from the immediate threat of the virus and grapple with a national call-to-action on race and equity, we can no longer ignore the layers of racism and policies of marginalization that have brought us to this moment. But passing the U.S. Citizenship Act is a significant step to shaping a society centered on justice. No other immigration policy would have as much immediate cross-sector impact or alleviate as much downstream social dysfunction as creating a path to citizenship for the undocumented, which is supported by 75 percent of Americans.
Now that Democrats control the House, Senate, and the White House, we have a window of opportunity to pass the U.S. Citizenship Act and finally recognize the contributions of millions of people who, for the past year especially, have been working tirelessly and risking their lives on our behalf. This historic legislation ushers in a new era of American leadership and has the promise to do the same for a new, more just approach to American citizenship.