Resolved: Immigration reform should include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.
This is part 4 of a multi-part series of essays on the above PF Debate resolution.
For part one of this series, click here
Pro Position (Part 2)Once again, I am not inclined to write your case for you. I am interested in giving you enough ideas to get started into your own research. Most importantly, I am hoping to convey to you an approach for the Pro position which illustrates (in Pro (Part 1)) the harms which exist because we have undocumented residents, and in this portion of the analysis, how the path to citizenship solves the harms. The advantages we can claim, which arise from solving the problems take two forms: one, we can claim direct advantages such as the long term growth of the economy or two, we can claim indirect advantages by avoiding disadvantages such as the impact on human dignity or the potential impacts of disease.
You must remember, we are not debating the other, possibly greater issues. Border security may or may not be solved in a comprehensive immigration reform initiative, so we cannot claim that we will have a future with no undocumented residents if we make this change to the status-quo. All we can claim is solvency and advantages from the current group of undocumented residents at the time the reform takes place. If people continue to flood across the border without authorization, that would be another debate for another day, but it is not this debate.
The SolvencyIn order to claim solvency we must show how the path to citizenship alleviates the harms. We can claim we completely solve them, or we can claim we significantly solve them or we mostly solve them. It depends on what your evidence proves and what the judge will accept. It also helps when you can find evidence the new policy must happen now rather than later.
Lynch & Oakford 2013:
As our study demonstrates, legal status and a road map to citizenship for the unauthorized will bring about significant economic gains in terms of growth, earnings, tax revenues, and jobs - all of which will not occur in the absence of immigration reform or with reform that creates a permanent sub-citizen class of residents. We also show that the timing of reform matters: The sooner we provide legal status and citizenship, the greater the economic benefits are for the nation.
CBO and JCT estimate that enacting S. 744, as passed by the Senate, would generate changes in direct spending and revenues that would decrease federal budget deficits by $158 billion over the 2014-2023 period (see Table 1, enclosed with this letter). CBO also estimates that implementing the legislation would result in net discretionary costs of $23 billion over the 2014-2023 period, assuming appropriation of the amounts authorized or otherwise needed to implement the legislation. Combining those figures would lead to a net savings of about $135 billion over the 2014-2023 period from enacting S. 744.
Sumption & Flamm 2012:
Naturalized citizens earn between 50 and 70 percent more than noncitizens (see Figure 7). They have higher employment rates and are half as likely to live below the poverty line as noncitizens. Naturalized citizens also appear to have weathered the effects of the economic crisis more successfully. Noncitizens’ median income fell by 19 percent from 2006-10, compared to declines of 8 percent for the US born and just 5 percent for naturalized citizens. As a result, the earnings gap between naturalized and noncitizen immigrants increased from 46 percent to 67 percent over the same period.
Lynch & Oakford 2013:
Research shows that legal status and a road map to citizenship both create the opportunity and incentive for workers to invest in their labor-market skills at a greater rate than they otherwise would: Nearly 45 percent of the wage increases experienced by newly legalized immigrants is due to upgrades in their human capital. Similarly, a Department of Labor study of newly legalized immigrants found that they had significantly improved their English language skills and educational attainment within five years of gaining legal status and a road map to citizenship.
The AdvantagesIt is not always easy to draw distinctions between solvency and advantages. Solvency address harms in the near term. It is something that begins as soon as the policy is enabled, whereas advantages arise as a consequence of solving the harms. As such they tend to be in the future. Because the path to citizenship is, in itself, a road which takes time, nearly all of the benefits are future advantages so we can look at some examples.
The advantages of a path to citizenship are realized as a result of enabling the 11 million undocumented individuals to attain citizenship. Generally, this improves their outcomes which provides a net benefit to society as a whole. While the advantages to the economy may seem obvious we must consider other long range benefits as well.
Consider, for example, outcome for students which are currently undocumented. They would be free to live up to their fullest potential.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers who lacked a high-school diploma in 2006 earned an average of only $419 per week and had an unemployment rate of 6.8 percent. In contrast, workers with a bachelor’s degree earned $962 per week and had an unemployment rate of 2.3 percent, while those with a doctorate earned $1,441 and had an unemployment rate of only 1.4 percent. Studies of undocumented immigrants who legalized their status through the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 reveal that legal status brings fiscal, economic, and labor-market benefits to individual immigrants, their families, and U.S. society in general. Given a chance, now-undocumented students will improve their education, get better jobs, and pay more in taxes.
The arguments for human capital are pervasive. They place a premium on human worth the potential of enabled human beings. Many undocumented workers are currently working under manipulative employers who leverage the fact the undocumented individually will not do anything which risks being exposed as in the country without authorization
With our immigration system in its current state of affairs, the increasing undocumented population in the U.S finds itself with limited rights, opportunities, and mobility. The negative economic, developmental, societal, and human implications of their precarious, second-class status necessitates a path to citizenship. A path to citizenship would clamp down on irresponsible employers who have been exploiting workers and level the competition among companies who have been following the rules. More importantly, with the expansion of social and economic opportunities, it would allow undocumented immigrants to fully realize and achieve their human potential. These 12 million are essentially Americans, going about daily life and living among us. The only thing separating them from us is a piece of paper.
Another important aspect to consider is the issue of health-care and in particular the health of the undocumented residents. There is little evidence that unhealthy immigrants have contributed to the spread of infectious disease among the citizenry but the risk is real and is one that will remain if undocumented people continue to live "underground" and avoid immunizations and treatments. The path to citizenship can improve the health outcomes for the immigrants and by extension, the current citizens.
Good health for immigrants should concern all of us. Some immigrants are highly educated and slide smoothly into prosperous jobs and lives, of course. But poor and less educated newcomers often struggle at the margins of society and can easily end up suffering the same bad health syndromes as native-born impoverished people already suffer – conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart problems, and other chronic diseases. These health problems are worrisome to society as a whole for several reasons:
- Paying for the care of people with chronic diseases is very costly, and places a big burden on public budgets that often pay all or a large part of the cost.
- Ill health hurts the economy, because obesity, diabetes, and other long-term ailments greatly reduce people’s quality of life and make workers much less productive.
- Unhealthy people without access to good care can make neighbors, co-workers, and customers less healthy, too. We all have a strong interest in basic health care for all, because infections spread in unpredictable ways, and over-crowded emergency rooms can make intensive care hard to deliver to anyone who comes by ambulance to that facility.
Consider the impact upon the children of the undocumented.
Berlinger & Gusmano
Citizen children of undocumented parents lag both in health insurance enrollment and in access to health care despite their eligibility for CHIP. Public health research suggests that anti-immigrant policies (such as Arizona SB100) have developmental consequences for children with undocumented parents. Even when these policies do not explicitly restrict access to health care, undocumented parents may be reluctant to participate in preventive-health and other activities in which their status could be revealed or questioned. Similar findings have been reported in education research.
The Pathos of the EthicsImmigrants, whether documented or not are often driven by forces beyond their control. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, grants the right to move inside and outside the borders of one's country and to seek asylum from prosecution. Political borders are often blind to the push and pull that results in the movement of populations seeking better lives and opportunities. It is a human desire, and so we can examine the ethics of immigration reform.
If conditions in a person’s native country so endanger his life and well-being and he becomes willing to risk illegality in order to survive, his right to survival, from a moral point of view, carries as much weight as does the new country’s claim to control borders against migrants. Immanuel Kant, therefore, called the moral claim to seek refuge or respite in the lands of another, a “universal right of hospitality,” provided that the intentions of the foreigner upon arriving on foreign lands were peaceful. Such a right, he argued, belonged to each human being placed on this planet who had to share the earth with others. Even though morally the right to hospitality is an individual right, the socioeconomic and cultural causes of migrations are for the most part collective. Migrations occur because of economic, environmental, cultural and historical “push” and “pull” factors. “We are here,” say migrants, “because in effect you were there.” “We did not cross the border; the border crossed us.”
The reason I and millions of Americans are up in arms about this issue is not because of blind political ideology or quixotic utopian idealism. What we care about and what is truly at stake is the dignity of millions of human beings documented and undocumented. Every day, millions of families are torn apart by draconian deportation practices. Husbands and wives who came to this country to build a better life for their family are violently cleaved apart and forced to never see their loved ones again. Perhaps worst of all, young immigrants who were brought here as children and lived their entire lives with the solace of a better future in their hearts, are met with an abrupt slap in the face as they are told they can no longer continue their education because they don't have the proper paperwork. For example children of recruited professionals from the Caribbean, Africa, and South America "age out" and become undocumented.
There is your snapshot into the Pro world. I hope for now it is sufficient.
Next we will look at the Con position.
S. 744, Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act
Congression Budget Office (CBO), June 2013
The Economic Effects of Granting Legal Status and Citizenship to Undocumented Immigrants,
Center for American Progress
Robert Lynch and Patrick Oakford, March 20, 2013
The economic Value of citizenship for immigrants in The United States
Madeleine Sumption and Sarah Flamm, Migration Policy Institute, September 2012
The Case for the DREAM Act, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities
Hope for the 12 Million: A Path to Citizenship, Berkeley Political Review
Wendie Yeung October 20, 2013
The Morality of Migration, New York Times
SEYLA BENHABIB, 2012
Human Dignity at the Heart of Immigration Reform, The Huffington Post
Bertha Lewis, Oct. 2013
Undocumented Patients, Undocumented immigrants & Access to Health Care, Hastings Center
Nancy Berlinger and Michael K. Gusmano
Migrant Health in the Debate About Immigration Reform
Scholars Strategy Network
Micah Gell-Redman, Feb 27, 2013,