Sunday, November 3, 2013

PF December 2013 - Path to Citizenship - Definition

Resolved: Immigration reform should include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.

The context for this debate is illustrated in this excerpt from the Congressional Research Office:
Leaders in both chambers of Congress have indicated that immigration reform is a legislative priority in the 113th Congress. The main elements of “comprehensive immigration reform” (CIR) legislation typically include increased border security and immigration enforcement, improved employment eligibility verification, revision of legal immigration, and options to address the millions of unauthorized aliens residing in the country. In January 2013, a bipartisan group of Senators proposed a framework for CIR that would address these issues and include new temporary worker visas. Several of these elements also were among the features that President Barack Obama emphasized later the same month when he called for the 113th Congress to “quickly” take up CIR legislation, though President Obama has not endorsed new temporary worker visas.
We will soon see in this analysis, the "path to citizenship" stated in the resolution is one of the options mentioned in the CRS report quoted above to "address the millions of unauthorized aliens residing in the country".

Defining the Resolution

Immigration - the act of entering and settling in a non-native country
reform - to improve (someone or something) by removing or correcting faults, problems, etc.

Immigration is not something that is reformed, but immigration policy and laws are something that can be reformed.  This resolution, by choosing the word "reform" strongly suggests that immigration is an act or process or in this case, a policy that is flawed.  The flaws are exposed because harms are occurring in the status-quo.  However, for the purposes of this debate, both Pro and Con must concede that reform is necessary.  Therefore, since we must agree reform is required, we are now forced to focus upon one particular aspect of a very broad issue, namely whether or not to include "a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in the United States".  So, why is this the defining issue and is there enough within the issue for both sides to more-or-less equally stand upon in establishing Pro or Con views?  We can see the resolution acknowledges there are other issues and the path to citizenship, how ever we define it, is one of the issues that "should" be included in the reform legislation.

path - a way from one place to another that one can walk along
citizenship - the obligations and responsibilities one has as a citizen
citizen - someone with right to permanently live in a particular country

We recognize the "path to citizenship" as meaning much more than a path or road along which one may travel.  It suggests, instead, a procedure with requirements one must follow to move from non-citizen to citizen and like any path, it can be narrow and difficult to follow or it may be broad and easy.  It may be incredibly long or amazingly short.  Theoretically, in this debate, there is no need to discuss the particulars about how arduous or simple the path to citizenship will ultimately prove to be except as a means to deny whether or not it "should" be provided since the path may be too complex or too difficult to provide in a meaningful way.  Primarily, we need to debate there needs to be another path for the undocumented despite the fact a legal "path" already exists for the vast  majority of potential immigrants who choose to abide by current legal procedures..

undocumented - not having the official documents that are needed to enter, live in, or work in a country legally
immigrant(s) - a person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence
undocumented immigrant(s) - A foreign-born person who lacks a right to be in the United States

To some groups, the term, undocumented immigrants, is unfortunate because it is contradictory.  Usually one defines immigrant as a foreign person who lawfully establishes residency.  The usual terminology seen is "undocumented alien" which means a non-citizen who has not obtained legal immigration status.  Neither undocumented immigrant or undocumented alien is defined in federal law.  I found a reference in a report on the impact of undocumented aliens on the U.S. Health Care System which states: "Federal law does not define the term “undocumented alien.” For purposes of this report, the term “undocumented alien” refers to a person who enters the United States without legal permission or who fails to leave when his or her permission to remain in the United States expires."  So I guess for the purposes of this debate we can apply the same definition to the term undocumented immigrant.

I think we need to be clear about one thing.  This debate is not exclusively about those individuals who slip illegally across the border by evading normal border security measures.  Many of the so-called undocumented "immigrants" are individuals who entered the country legally but remained in the country when their entry visas expired.

Most sources you find which cite recent statistics will claim that 40 percent of the estimated 11 million illegal aliens currently in the U.S. overstayed their visas.  Every entry visa whether a tourist visa, student visa, or work visa has a defined time limit and the expectation is the visitor will leave prior to the expiration date.  In the U.S., those who overstay their visas are considered to be in the country illegally and subject to deportation.  A very good, summary of the issues was published by
Billy Hallowell in May 2013:
"A record 40.4 million immigrants live in the U.S., representing 13 percent of the population. More than 18 million are naturalized citizens, 11 million are legal permanent or temporary residents, and more than 11 million are in the country without legal permission, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, a private research organization. Those in the U.S. illegally made up about 3.7 percent of the U.S. population in 2010. While overall immigration has steadily grown, the number of immigrants in the U.S. illegally peaked at 12 million in 2007."

"Simply being in the United States in violation of immigration laws isn’t, by itself, a crime; it’s a civil violation. Entering the country without permission is a misdemeanor criminal offense. Re-entering the country without authorization after being formally removed can be felony. Pew estimates that a little less than half of immigrants who lack legal permission to live in the U.S. didn’t enter the country illegally. They overstayed their visas, worked without authorization, dropped out of school or otherwise violated the conditions of their visas."

The Current Situation

The resolution declares immigration reform should include a path to citizenship.  In order to get a better idea of what that means, I defer to Hallowell:
"There’s a lot of talk about creating a “path to citizenship” for immigrants who are in the U.S. without legal status. But there’s vigorous debate over what conditions these immigrants should have to satisfy to get citizenship – among them are paying taxes, fines and fees, and passing background checks. Some legislators want to set additional conditions, such as improvements in border security and in tracking whether legal immigrants leave the country when required. Others want to limit immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally to some sort of legal status that stops short of citizenship. But more than 60 percent of Americans think those who are here illegally should have a way to become citizens, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll conducted in April. The Senate bill would allow those in the country illegally to obtain “registered provisional immigrant” status six months after the bill was enacted if they met certain conditions. Additional border security improvements would have to go into place before anyone obtained green cards or citizenship. It would take immigrants living here illegally at least 13 years to get all the way to citizenship. They’d have to pay taxes, fees and $2,000 in fines. No one who entered the country after Dec. 31, 2011, or had a felony conviction or more than three misdemeanors would be eligible."

Understanding the Resolution

This debate will no doubt be a major agenda item for the U.S. Congress in late 2013 through 2014 time frame.  In fact, a Senate bill for comprehensive immigration reform, which included a path to citizenship has already been passed during the summer of 2013.  It has yet to find House approval and will likely become a pivotal issue for the conservatives in the House of Representatives to leverage other reforms or agendas they support which may not be directly related to immigration issues.  The topic of immigration reform is, in and of itself, a very controversial subject, full of complexity and very prone to pejorative terminology which may prove to be difficult for some debaters to handle without inflaming emotional backlash.

Given the fact we have undocumented people living in the U.S., many of whom are contributing to the economies of their local communities, what should be done with them?  Providing a mechanism for them to attain status as legal citizens is proposed.  On the other hand, we are presently wading through a myriad of entry applications from individuals who are seeking residency status who desire to follow the already established path to citizenship that many of our ancestors followed.  Would it be fair to provide a citizenship path to others who are here illegally while others have been waiting for years to obtain the privilege using the currently established means?  We shall explore these issues in more detail as we look at the Pro and Con positions in the coming days, on Everyday Debate.

Click here for background information on this topic.



Brief History of Comprehensive Immigration Reform Efforts in the 109th and 110th Congresses to Inform Policy Discussions in the 113th Congress
Ruth Ellen Wasem, Specialist in Immigration Policy, February 27, 2013

The Framing of Immigration, The Rockridge Institute
By George Lakoff and Sam Ferguson, 2006

America’s Immigration Debate: Everything You Need to Know About the Stats, History and Proposals for Reform;
May. 6, 2013; Billy Hallowell


  1. Aside from providing benefits to the economy of a community, what other impacts are there for aff? It seems like this is a really neg heavy topic.

    Also, judge bias?

    1. I will provide a more detailed look at the Aff and Neg positions very soon. Check back. You are right about one thing...even if the economic impact is significant there needs to be more, and judge bias could potentially be heavily biased to either side of the issue but we have lived through much more controversial (potential bias) topics than this.

  2. The economic impacts are overwhelmingly pro. What is the impact on the con? To me, it's a very pro biased topic from a pragmatic view point. I do agree that a lot of judges will be emotionally pulled by the neg, especially in the more conservative parts of the country.

  3. What about potential frameworks? I am thinking a cost/benefit would be good for either side; but what about specific Pro and Con frameworks?

    1. Please read the Pro and Con positions linked to this article or click the Public Forum tab at the top of the page to find all articles for this resolution.

    2. This is my Pro framework: In order to clarify the round, we offer the following observation: the scope of the resolution ends with “undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.” Therefore, arguments or studies regarding holistic illegal immigration or those that account for immigration trends should be discounted.

  4. i read in my case briefs that the word undocumented alien is an offensive word to describe these immigrants. Is that not offensive?

    1. "Illegal" alien or immigrant can be considered offensive. I disagree that undocumented alien is offensive. If you are concerned, call them people or workers who are undocumented.

  5. is this a neg or aff case?


Feel free to leave comments relevant to the topics and activity of competitive high school debate. However, this is not a sounding board for your personal ideologies, abusive or racist commentary or excessive inappropriate language. Everyday Debate blog reserves the right to delete any comments it deems inappropriate.