Green cards vs. citizenship: It’s time for a compromise

Under current law, a green-card holder, or permanent resident, who qualifies can apply to become a naturalized citizen after five years. Those who wish to do so could pursue that path, but once permanent-resident status is granted it is likely that most would not. After all, their children, if born in the U.S., would be granted U.S. citizenship, as would future generations.

If only illegal immigrants had this explained clearly to them, it is highly unlikely that they would prefer to fight for citizenship over permanent-resident status, when the granting of green cards would be less contentious and more likely to attract wider political support. So why then do most Democrats prefer a “path to citizenship” over a green-card solution?

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The answer is simple: politics. It is an article of faith in Washington that the great majority of illegal immigrants who will benefit from citizenship are Hispanic and will vote for Democrats. Similarly, Republicans fear that naturalized Hispanics will not vote for Republicans. So if the illegal immigrants are offered citizenship, and not permanent-resident status, the electoral consequences will favor Democrats and undermine Republicans.

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