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Last Updated: April 8, 2013

Immigration Policy: Should the U.S. government provide undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship?

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Allowing illegal immigrants to become citizens is crucial to the economic and moral health of the United States. Undocumented workers are important to the economy, and they deserve to have their contributions rewarded with the benefits of full U.S. citizenship. These immigrants also pay taxes, but are prohibited from reaping the benefits of their tax dollars. Immigration in general is beneficial to the United States and should be encouraged.


A path to citizenship would essentially reward those who have crossed the border illegally. With full U.S. citizenship comes access to federal benefits such as Medicare and Social Security, rendering such a plan prohibitively expensive. Even if the United States were to allow illegal immigrants to become legal residents, it should not give them amnesty by making them full citizens.

Issues and Controversies: Immigrants Sworn as American Citizens

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom

Immigrants to the United States are sworn in as American citizens at a ceremony held in Washington, D.C., in 2012.

Because of its commitment to freedom and opportunity, along with its wealth and power, the United States is a highly attractive destination for millions of people around the world seeking to immigrate to another country to live and work. The U.S. government, which oversees immigration, actively encourages highly skilled immigrants to move to the United States and put down permanent roots.

Yet immigration to the United States is tightly regulated and restricted. The U.S. government issues permanent residency cards, or "green cards," to only a few hundred thousand immigrants each year—far fewer than would be necessary to meet demand. These green cards essentially put immigrants on a path to citizenship. Within a few years, holders of green cards are eligible to become full-fledged U.S. citizens, with all of the legal rights that status entails. Citizens are eligible to vote, receive a U.S. passport, and partake in government benefit programs, such as Medicare and Social Security.

The appeal that the United States holds for many immigrants, combined with its restrictive immigration policy, has led many people to enter the country illegally. Many of these illegal, or undocumented, immigrants end up living in the country for a long time. Experts estimate that half of the United States' illegal immigrant population has been in the country for a decade or longer. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, by far the largest percentage of undocumented immigrants originally hails from Mexico, followed by El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and the Philippines.

Entering the United States illegally is risky; unauthorized immigrants must either use falsified documents to deceive an immigration official, come ashore by boat without being detected, or sneak across the nation's land borders with Mexico or Canada—which the government spends about $18 billion a year to protect. Hundreds of people die each year attempting to cross the border between the United States and Mexico, most of heatstroke or dehydration in the treacherous deserts that separate the two countries. The penalty for illegal immigration, which is classified as a federal misdemeanor, is strict as well. The U.S. government can deport illegal immigrants and ban them from re-entering the country for 10 years. Nevertheless, people from other countries continue to take these risks on a daily basis.

For years, debate has raged in the United States over how to handle the estimated 11 million people living in the country illegally. While many opponents of illegal immigration argue that these immigrants should be deported—or face such unfriendly conditions that they choose to leave willingly, or "self-deport"—others argue that undocumented immigrants in many ways help fuel the U.S. economy, toiling for low wages in jobs—such as physically arduous farm work—that most Americans refuse to do.

In 2007, Congress almost passed a bill—supported by President George W. Bush (R, 2001–09), most Democrats, and many moderate Republicans—that would have given illegal immigrants a multiyear path to citizenship, similar to the one available to legal green-card holders. Conservative opposition to that idea, however, resulted in the bill's defeat.

In early 2013, President Barack Obama (D) vowed to make immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, a top priority of his second term. Many experts believe that the chances of passing immigration reform under President Obama are substantially higher than they were under President Bush. "A new consensus on immigrants and America is emerging," said Ali Noorani, the executive director of the National Immigration Forum, in February 2013. Indeed, many political observers expect the Republican Party to soften its view on immigrants as a result of its recent unpopularity among the increasingly large bloc of Latino voters. In the 2012 presidential election, Obama received 71 percent of the Latino vote and Republican challenger Mitt Romney just 27 percent. Still, many conservative Republicans argue that the proposed "path to citizenship" simply amounts to amnesty, a pardon from the government for committing the crime of entering the country illegally.

Should the United States pass legislation creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants?

Opponents of a path to citizenship argue that immigrants should not be awarded amnesty after breaking American laws. The cost of allowing undocumented immigrants to become full-fledged citizens, they argue, would likely be in the trillions of dollars because amnesty recipients will receive more in government benefits than they will pay in taxes. Comprehensive immigration reform, critics assert, should focus on strengthening border security. Some opponents, meanwhile, argue that while the United States should encourage immigration, allowing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants would encourage even more foreigners to enter the country illegally.

Supporters of a path to citizenship maintain that the United States has a moral responsibility to allow hard-working immigrants—both legal and illegal—to become citizens. Undocumented immigrants, they point out, pay taxes, spur economic growth, and thus deserve the full benefits of citizenship. They also contribute to government programs such as Social Security, advocates note, yet are not allowed to receive benefits from such programs. The U.S. government has already cracked down on border security and immigration law enforcement, supporters note, and now Congress must attempt broader reform.

Immigration Laws in the 19th and 20th Centuries

The first immigration-related legislation in the United States was the 1790 Naturalization Act, which allowed "free white persons" who had lived in the United States for at least two years to apply for citizenship. 

In 1798, President John Adams (Federalist, 1797–1801) signed four laws known collectively as the Alien and Sedition Acts; the United States at the time was embroiled in an undeclared naval war with France, and the laws were intended to curb opposition to the U.S. government, particularly from foreign immigrants who federalists suspected of spreading pro-French and radical sentiments. The Alien Enemies Act allowed the president, during a time of war, to deport citizens of an enemy nation; the Alien Friends Act allowed the president to deport any alien he deemed "dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States;" the Naturalization Act increased the amount of time immigrants had to stay in the United States before they could apply for citizenship to 14 years from five years, and the Sedition Act barred criticism of the U.S. government. The Alien and Sedition Acts were very unpopular, and contributed to President Adams's defeat in the 1800 presidential election by Thomas Jefferson (Democratic-Republican, 1801–09), who staunchly opposed the laws as an incursion on Americans' civil liberties.

In the mid-19th century, the United States experienced a massive wave of immigration to its shores. Between 1820 and 1880, millions of western and northern Europeans—mostly from Britain, Germany, and Ireland—left their homelands to start new lives in the United States. Although tensions between native-born Americans and immigrants did exist, the influx was, for the most part, welcomed. The United States needed a larger population to help settle its western states and territories and to contribute to its growing economy.

Not all immigrants were well received, however, especially those from countries outside of western Europe. In the 1850s, a wave of Chinese immigrants entered the United States, settling mostly in western states and territories and helping to build the nation's infrastructure, including the Transcontinental Railroad. These immigrants had initially been welcomed for their willingness to perform low-wage manual labor, but resentment against them grew in the 1870s, once the railroad was complete.

Amid increasing hostility toward Chinese immigrants, which included discriminatory state and local measures and numerous acts of violence against them, President Chester A. Arthur (R, 1881–85) signed the Chinese Exclusion Act into law in 1882. The first law to restrict immigration based on race or nationality, the Chinese Exclusion Act barred virtually all Chinese immigrants from entering the United States. The law also prevented Chinese immigrants already living in the United States from becoming citizens. (The law would remain in effect until 1943, when many of its provisions were repealed to solidify the alliance between the United States and China during World War II.)

Immigration from Europe boomed again in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with millions coming from Italy, Poland, Russia, and other countries. In 1907, the peak year, more than 1.2 million immigrants arrived in the United States.

Immigration remained controversial, particularly after the outbreak of World War I (1914–18), when growing anxiety over national security prompted lawmakers to tighten restrictions on entry to the United States. The Immigration Act of 1917, passed over a veto from President Woodrow Wilson (D, 1913–21), gave officials greater power to deport resident aliens; closed the U.S. border to almost anyone from Asia; required immigrants to pay a steep tax and prove their literacy before entering the country; and formally barred a wide range of "undesirables"—a group that included poor people, "imbeciles, epileptics, [and] alcoholics"—from entering the United States.

In 1921, President Warren Harding (R, 1921–23) signed the Quota Act, a law that instituted immigration quotas, allowing only 3 percent of the immigrant population of each country living in the United States as of the 1910 census to enter the country each year. The quotas largely favored western European countries, which represented the largest immigrant populations in 1910, and were intended to discourage immigrants from southern and eastern European countries, such as Italy and Poland, respectively, from entering the United States.

An immigration law, known as the National Origins Act, or the Johnson-Reed Act, signed by President Calvin Coolidge (R, 1923–29) in 1924, reduced the annual immigration quotas to 2 percent and dated the benchmark population amount backward from 1910 to 1890, when there were even fewer immigrants living in the United States. The National Origins Act further prohibited virtually all people from Asian countries from entering the United States. (Only Filipinos were allowed entry, as the Philippines was a U.S. colony at the time.)

Largely because of the passage of the 1917, 1921, and 1924 laws, overall immigration to the United States fell sharply for several decades. The Great Depression—a severe economic downturn that lasted throughout the 1930s—and the outbreak of World War II (1939–45) also contributed to the decline.

In 1952, Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality Act, also known as the McCarran-Walter Act. The law partially lifted the ban on Asians immigrating to the United States and allowed a limited number of Asian immigrants to become American citizens. The act also further enhanced the federal government's ability to enforce immigration quotas that had been established earlier in the 20th century. For that reason, President Harry Truman (D, 1945–53), who argued that the quota system was discriminatory, vetoed the bill; however, Congress was able to override the veto, and the McCarran-Walter Act became law.

By the 1960s, the idea of a quota system that favored white Anglo-Saxon immigrants over people from other racial, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds had come to be seen as wrong and antithetical to American values. "Our streets may not be paved with gold," Senator Edward Kennedy (D, Massachusetts) argued while debating immigration reform in Congress in 1965, "but they are paved with the promise that men and women who live here—even strangers and new newcomers—can rise as fast, as far as their skills will allow, no matter what their color is, no matter what the place of their birth."

Shortly afterward, President Lyndon Johnson (D, 1963–69) stood at the foot of the Statue of Liberty and signed the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 into law. The law gave immigrants from all countries a mostly equal chance of becoming American citizens. It strongly favored immigrants who were skilled workers, those who sought political asylum, and those wishing to reunite with family members already living in the United States. The 1965 law profoundly changed the racial and demographic makeup of the United States, leading to surges in the country's South American, Asian, African, and Eastern European populations, all of whom had previously been allowed only very limited entry to the United States.

By the early 1980s, illegal immigration had risen as well, particularly from Mexico, which borders Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas. In an effort to curb illegal immigration, President Ronald Reagan (R, 1981–89) signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986, which allocated funding to strengthen the U.S.–Mexican border and made it a crime for employers to knowingly hire or recruit illegal immigrants.

The 1986 law also made any undocumented immigrant who had been living continuously in the United States since 1982 eligible for amnesty; an estimated 3 million illegal immigrants received legal status as a result. President Reagan had voiced support for such a measure during his 1984 reelection campaign. "I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here," he said during one of the presidential debates, "even though some time back they may have entered illegally."

The 1986 law did little to decrease the rate of illegal immigration to the United States. Some observers have argued that the law was in fact responsible for a surge in unauthorized immigration, on the basis that the notion of future amnesty encouraged a generation of people from other countries to enter the United States illegally. Many others, however, claim that it is impossible to attribute the post-1986 wave of illegal immigrants solely to that year's immigration law. Immigration patterns are complicated, they point out, and it is difficult to ascribe general trends to just one cause.

Nevertheless, in an attempt to reverse the rising tide of illegal immigration, Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act in 1996. The law authorized even more funding for border security and gave immigration officials greater authority to deport illegal immigrants. The law also prohibited undocumented immigrants from receiving federal benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps, or welfare.

Issues and Controversies: Birth Countries of Illegal Immigrants in the United States (chart)

Presidents Bush and Obama Attempt to Pass Immigration Reform

After winning reelection in 2004, President George W. Bush (R, 2001–09) declared that the time was right for the United States to implement a new immigration policy, one that constructively and humanely dealt with the issue of illegal immigration. Although Bush repeatedly stated that he opposed amnesty for illegal immigrants, he supported an approach that would have put many undocumented immigrants on a path to U.S. citizenship.

Yet many Republicans broke with President Bush, supporting a much more hard-line stance toward illegal immigration. In December 2005, the Republican-led House of Representatives passed an immigration reform bill that focused almost entirely on increasing border security and increasing penalties on illegal immigrants. The bill proved extremely unpopular with immigrants in the United States—both legal and illegal—and sparked massive protests throughout the first half of 2006. On May 1, for example, demonstrators organized a so-called day without immigrants, in which immigrants boycotted their work and other aspects of American society in an effort to show how much the country relied on their labor. The protests led to widespread discussions on the role that immigrants, including those in the United States illegally, played in the economy. "This was a one-day deal," Randel Johnson, vice president of the United States Chamber of Congress, told the New York Times. "If immigrants decided to abandon their jobs for two weeks, that would definitely have an impact."

In the months that followed, a bipartisan group of senators worked to craft a more moderate bill along the lines of President Bush's proposals. The 2006 Senate bill provided a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. It also allowed more people to enter the country legitimately, by establishing a guest-worker program, "a legal and orderly [way] for foreign workers to enter our country to work on a temporary basis," as President Bush later described it in his 2007 State of the Union speech.

The Senate passed the bill but was unable to reconcile it with the House's vastly different proposal. A similar Senate bill in 2007 that included a greater emphasis on immigration enforcement was defeated, and immigration reform effectively collapsed.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama (D) pledged to pass immigration reform. After becoming president in 2009, however, Obama pursued various measures to revive the country's weak economy, the passage of a sweeping health care reform law, and efforts to reduce the United States' large national debt.

President Obama did, however, support the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would have allowed immigrants whose parents brought them to the United States illegally as young children to earn citizenship if they attended college or served in the military. The House of Representatives passed the DREAM Act in 2010, but Republicans in the Senate blocked it.

In June 2012, while running for reelection, President Obama issued an executive order to permit undocumented immigrants facing deportation to apply for legal status if they did so before the age of 30, had arrived in the United States before the age of 16, and met a variety of other requirements. The order allowed an estimated 800,000 undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States.

Many Republicans accused Obama of overstepping the limits of presidential power by issuing the order. Nevertheless, Obama stressed that "This is not amnesty…This is not immunity…. This is a temporary, stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people."

Although supporters of immigrants' rights applauded the president's order, they sharply criticized other actions taken by the Obama administration, such as the rise in deportations. In 2012, the United States expelled more than 400,000 undocumented immigrants, the highest number in history.

Nevertheless, Latino voters overwhelmingly supported Obama in the 2012 election, as they had in 2008. More than 7 of 10 Latino voters, who constituted 10 percent of the electorate, voted for Obama. Within days of his second inauguration in January 2013, Obama began to outline his plan for immigration reform, which included a clear path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. "The time has come for common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform," he told an audience in Las Vegas, Nevada. "I guarantee that I will put everything I've got" into passing such legislation, he told a reporter from Telemundo, a Spanish-speaking television network. "Real reform means strong border security," the president said during his State of the Union address in February 2013. "Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship." [See President Obama Outlines Immigration Plan in Las Vegas Speech (sidebar)]

While a bipartisan group of eight senators has begun working on a bill that is expected to both strengthen the U.S. border and allow undocumented immigrants to earn green cards, progress remains uncertain. "If Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion," Obama said in Las Vegas, "I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away."

In early 2013, the Senate group released a four-page outline, which members hope to flesh out into an immigration bill that the full Senate can vote on by June or July. As Obama requested, the bill outlined would introduce a pathway allowing illegal immigrants to seek full citizenship. But that pathway would take effect only after the United States makes tangible (though as yet unspecified) improvements to its border security. This "enforcement trigger" provision is widely seen as a way to attract conservative support to the final bill. [See Bipartisan Group of Senators Outlines Immigration-Reform Plan (sidebar)]

Just days after the Senate proposal was announced in late January, reporters at USA Today and the Miami Herald obtained the Obama administration's own immigration proposal outline. The Obama plan closely resembled the Senate's in creating a clear path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants. These immigrants, however, would be sent to the "back of the line" for green cards, behind the 6 million legal immigrants who have already applied for a permanent-residency card. (Experts estimate that it could take anywhere from 8 to 13 years for that line to clear.) Children brought to the country illegally, meanwhile, would be placed on a special fast track to citizenship.

Under the Obama plan, undocumented immigrants would have to demonstrate fluency in English, display knowledge of American history and government, and pay back taxes, plus a small fine, to become citizens. Those convicted of serious crimes would not be eligible for citizenship. Obama's proposal would also bolster the federal E-Verify system, which helps employers check the immigration status of prospective workers.

The major difference between the Senate and Obama plans is that the latter is not contingent upon any "enforcement triggers," and the path to citizenship for illegal immigrants begins immediately. Consequently, some senators have accused the administration of deliberately leaking its immigration plan to undermine the Senate outline, a claim the White House denies. In a statement, Senator Marco Rubio (R, Florida), who has emerged as a prominent Republican champion of immigration reform, said that the administration's plan to grant citizenship to illegal immigrants without first ensuring border security is "counterproductive [and] seriously flawed." In response, the Obama administration argued that, by historical standards, the border is already very secure.

Issues and Controversies: Public Opinion on Path to Citizenship for Illegal Immigrants (chart)

Supporters Argue: Path to Citizenship Essential to Immigration Reform

Proponents argue that allowing undocumented immigrants to become American citizens is simply the right thing to do. "The people of this country are ready for us to be one country again without second-class people being mistreated simply because they lack paper, even though they are already contributing to our economy and our tax system," Ben Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said in January 2013.

Undocumented immigrants, supporters note, contribute to the U.S. economy in many ways, including paying taxes. In 1996, supporters point out, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) created tax identification numbers for illegal immigrants so they could pay taxes. Indeed, supporters contend, because they do not have Social Security numbers, many illegal immigrants pay into the Social Security system even though they will never be eligible to receive the program's benefits. "[I]mmigrants aren't flocking to the United States to mooch off the government," Shikha Dalmia wrote for the libertarian magazine Reason in 2006. Undocumented workers, she added, who likely could have easily avoided the IRS's tax identification numbers, rushed to enroll in the system. "No doubt they hope this will one day help them acquire legal status," Dalmia wrote, in "a plaintive expression of their desire to play by the rules and come out of the shadows."

Supporters argue that illegal immigrants demonstrably benefit the U.S. economy and deserve to have their contributions recognized by being granted citizenship. These immigrants, they note, tend to spend almost all of their disposable income, which spreads throughout the economy and spurs growth. "There is a consensus that, on average, the incomes of [all] families in this country are increased by a small, but clearly positive amount, because of immigration," Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the liberal think tank the Economic Policy Institute, told the New York Times. "That is not controversial."

Supporters also note that immigrants are far more willing than other Americans to accept low-wage, unappealing jobs. If not for "undocumented labor performing routine tasks" in restaurants, writes New York Times Magazine economics columnist Adam Davidson, "meals, which factor labor costs into the price, would be more expensive. There would also be fewer jobs for waiters and chefs." It is wrong, supporters maintain, for the United States to deny those immigrants the advantages of citizenship when the country reaps so many benefits from their hard work.

Advocates of a path to citizenship reject the notion that immigration reform should focus on enforcing current immigration laws and strengthening the border. The Obama administration notes that it is already strongly enforcing immigration laws, pointing to soaring deportation rates and a decline in the illegal immigration population from its 2007 peak. "We have gone above and beyond what was requested by the very Republicans who said they supported broader reform as long as we got serious about enforcement," President Obama said in 2011. "But even though we've answered these questions…I suspect there are still going to be some who are trying to move the goal posts on us one more time."

Some supporters, meanwhile, advocate a path to citizenship that is much more rapid than the one proposed by the Obama administration, which, they argue, could result in a wait of between 8 and 13 years for immigrants to become full-fledged citizens. Despite praising the plan as a way to "allow undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows," Gordon Whitman, the policy director at the PICO National Network, a coalition of faith-based organizations and community groups, argued in a statement that the proposal would "delay citizenship another generation. In practice this could mean people waiting another 15 to 20 years to be fully integrated into society as citizens."

Opponents Argue: Path to Citizenship a Poor Solution to Immigration Reform

Opponents argue that allowing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants—which they consider tantamount to amnesty—would only embolden other foreigners to enter the United States illegally. "By granting amnesty, the Senate proposal actually compounds the problem by encouraging more illegal immigration," said Representative Lamar Smith (R, Texas) in 2013. Opponents note that illegal immigration surged in the years following the 1986 immigration law, which granted amnesty to undocumented immigrants.

The idea that illegal immigrants could be eligible to become American citizens, opponents argue, would be unfair to the millions of immigrants who wait and work for U.S. citizenship legally. Under the Obama and Senate plans, they contend, the concept of "legal immigration" is essentially rendered meaningless, since both illegal and legal immigrants would be able to become American citizens. "Call it 'regularization,' call it a 'path to citizenship,' it amounts to precisely the same thing," the editors of the conservative magazine National Review wrote in a January 2013 editorial. "A decision to set aside the law and to ignore its violation."

Opponents argue that, rather than focusing on a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, immigration reform should focus on the enforcement of existing immigration laws. "Our immigration laws aren't broken; they just aren't enforced," Representative Smith said. "We've been down this road before with politicians promising to enforce the law in return for amnesty. And then after the amnesty, they fail to make good on the enforcement promises. The American people should not be fooled."

Critics further dispute assertions from the Obama administration that the U.S.–Mexico border has become more secure in recent years. "It is factually incorrect for anyone to suggest that the border is secure and is not being penetrated," Texas attorney general Greg Abbott told the Washington Times in 2013. Border security, he added, "has to be the initial linchpin of any comprehensive immigration reform that is going to take place in the country."

Opponents argue that illegal immigrants drain the United States' resources; allowing them a path to citizenship, they maintain, would only cost the country more money. In a 2007 report on the potential cost of that year's failed immigration bill, Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, wrote that potential "amnesty recipients" are "likely to receive more in government benefits than they pay in taxes through most of their lives, due to their low education levels." The net cost of such benefits—including Medicaid, food stamps, public housing, Medicare, and Social Security—could total at least as $2.6 trillion, Rector wrote, which is more than the United States can afford.

Many opponents of putting immigrants who entered the United States illegally on a path to citizenship insist that they support immigration in general, but reject the notion of amnesty. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R), for example, asserts that the best way to battle illegal immigration is to allow more people to enter the country legally. Nevertheless, critics such as Bush insist that allowing those who already entered the United States illegally to become citizens would send the wrong signal. "The U.S. must find a fair way to deal with its 11 million illegal immigrants without sending the message that America's laws can be broken with impunity," Bush wrote in a January 2013 Wall Street Journal op-ed with co-author Clint Bolick. "Crossing the border illegally must have consequences."

Results of Reform Effort Uncertain

The eight leading senators responsible for the immigration-reform outline have said they will have a full bill ready to be debated in the Senate by June or July 2013. Whether that bill can succeed, observers note, is still doubtful. There are enough conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives who oppose a path to citizenship to potentially doom a reform bill that includes such a proposal. Additionally, Marco Rubio (R, Florida)—one of the eight leading senators—has publicly stated that he would actively campaign against any immigration bill that does not contain an enforcement trigger, a provision that the Obama administration opposes.

If immigration reform stalls in Congress, President Obama could potentially use his presidential power to implement certain measures by executive privilege. Some speculate, for example, that Obama could halt deportations of the estimated 4 million immigrants who entered the United States legally but overstayed their visas. It is extremely unlikely that Obama could or would use executive privilege to create a permanent "path to citizenship," however, and it remains to be seen whether comprehensive immigration reform can be achieved and what it might entail.


Avlon, John. "Obama's 2013 State of the Union and the Immigration Reform Moment." Daily Beast, February 13, 2013,

Caputo, Marc. "Obama's Immigration Reform Frays Nerves, but Shows Similarities with Marco Rubio's Plan." Miami Herald, February 18, 2013,

Cave, Damien. "Long Border, Endless Struggle." New York Times, March 2, 2013,

Dalmia, Shikha. "Illegal Immigrants Are Paying a Lot More Taxes Than You Think." Reason, May 1, 2006,

Davidson, Adam. "Do Illegal Immigrants Actually Hurt the U.S. Economy?" New York Times, February 12, 2013,

Dinan, Stephen, and Tom Howell Jr. "House Refuses Obama's Demand to Rush Immigration Reform." Washington Times, February 27, 2013,

Hennessey, Kathleen. "Immigration Reform Bill Could Pass in Six Months, Obama Says." Los Angeles Times, January 31, 2013,

"Illegal Immigrants Filing Taxes More Than Ever." Associated Press, April 13, 2007,

Khimm, Suzy. "Undocumented Immigrants Would Have 13-Year Wait for Citizenship Under Obama Plan." Washington Post, February 19, 2013,

Lillis, Mike. "Dems: Obama Can Act Unilaterally on Immigration Reform." Hill, February 16, 2013,

Lothian, Dan, Jessica Yellin, and Tom Cohen. "'Now's the Time' to Move on Immigration, Obama Says.", January 30, 2013,

Ludden, Jennifer. "1965 Immigration Law Changed Face of America." National Public Radio, May 9, 2006,

"Obama Says Immigration Reform 'Within Our Grasp,' Key Senator Raises Concern with Plan.", January 29, 2013,

Parsons, Christi, and Kathleen Hennessy. "Obama Starts Push for Immigration Reform." Los Angeles Times, January 30, 2013,

"A Pointless Amnesty." National Review, January 30, 2013,

"A Reagan Legacy: Amnesty for Illegal Immigrants." National Public Radio, July 4, 2010,

Rector, Robert. "Amnesty Will Cost U.S. Taxpayers at Least $2.6 Trillion." Heritage Foundation, June 6, 2007,

Serwer, Adam. "Hardliners Killed Bush's Immigration Reform. Can They Stop Obama's?" Mother Jones, January 31, 2013,

Shear, Michael. "Seeing Citizenship Path Near, Activists Push Obama to Slow Deportations." New York Times, February 22, 2013,

Additional Sources

Additional information about immigration policy can be found in the following sources:

Bush, Jeb, and Clint Bolick. Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution. New York: Threshold Editions, 2013.

Orrenius, Pia M., and Madeline Zavodny. Beside the Golden Door: U.S. Immigration Reform in a New Era of Globalization. Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 2010.

Contact Information

Information on how to contact organizations that are either mentioned in the discussion of immigration policy or can provide additional information on the subject is listed below:

National Immigration Forum
50 F St. N.W., Suite 300
Washington, D.C. 20001
Telephone: (202) 347-0040

1601 N. Kent St., Suite 1100
Arlington, Va. 22209
Telephone: (703) 816-8820

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
500 12th St. S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20536
Telephone: (202) 732-4242


For further information about the ongoing debate over immigration policy, search for the following words and terms in electronic databases and other publications:

Enforcement trigger
Green card
Path to citizenship
Undocumented immigrants
U.S. border security

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