The term “path to citizenship” is used by many in the immigrant rights community to refer to a process whereby current and prospective immigrants have a clearly defined and not-too-difficult process whereby they can eventually acquire citizenship with its full network of benefits. For many in the immigrant rights and pro-immigration communities, the absence of a “path to citizenship” is a deal-breaker for immigration reform proposals, because of concerns about the many problems (real or perceived) associated with second-class residents. Insistence on a path to citizenship may be attributed to philosophical stances such as territorialism and local inequality aversion.
Hardcore open borders advocates such as those on Open Borders: The Case, while generally viewing a path to citizenship favorably, do not view it as an integral or uncompromisable component of open borders, and are willing to consider keyhole solutions such as guest worker programs that radically expand migration opportunities without offering a path to citizenship.
Here are some related materials:
- Gingrich’s Plan on Immigration: Hardly Humane by the Immigration Policy Center opposed the Red Card scheme, with one of the primary reasons for opposition given that the scheme did not explicitly include a path to citizenship.
- Path to Citizenship Must be Included, a piece by Gary Segura for the New York Times, says that the absence of a path to citizenship should be a deal-breaker for any immigration reform proposal. Chris Hendrix critiqued this stance in a blog post titled With Friends Like These.
- In a blog post for Open Borders titled Aviva Chomsky on open borders: weak on economics, stronger on politics and history, John Lee wrote:
Unlike Chomsky, I don’t place a huge priority on voting rights for immigrants. It seems to me that each society should be entitled to decide who should be able to vote, and it’s up to the US, as well as its individual states and localities, to decide which foreigners, if any, should be entitled to vote. A political right is not a fundamental human right. I accept Chomsky’s argument that we should not arbitrarily tie the vote to citizenship, but it doesn’t seem to me that the disenfranchisement of non-citizens is even close to being the worst thing in the world. It isn’t hard to see why even a liberal-minded person would be skeptical of allowing anyone from anywhere to vote in their jurisdiction (though I suspect most attempts to use immigration policy to address this are trying to tackle the problem with a very blunt instrument).
I do think it is harmful to perpetuate the disenfranchisement of non-citizens who indicate a strong commitment to their adopted society. One can demonstrate this commitment in many ways; military service, lengthy residence, marrying a citizen. It would seem arbitrary and unjust to me to declare that because you happened to be born a non-citizen, you can never aspire to become a citizen. Immigrants should be able to expect greater political rights as they integrate into their adopted societies. But again, though I would place great importance on there being a path to citizenship, it is not the most important thing.
Where I think there is a higher bar, and where societies need to be absolutely transparent in how they decide their rules, is the simple act of immigration. Morally, a society is more or less entitled to decide in any arbitrary way it wants who gets to vote in its elections. But morally, a society is not entitled to decide in any arbitrary way who gets to be with their family, and who doesn’t. It is not entitled to decide in any arbitrary way who gets to seek gainful employment, and who doesn’t. It is free to restrict these rights, but it needs to explain itself when it does so.
- The DRITI scheme proposed by Nathan Smith as a realistic step towards open borders in the US includes a path to citizenship that relies on a threshold quantity being accumulated in a mandatory savings account,
- Some indirectly related blog posts: Are immigrant rights activists friends of open borders? and six possible positions on a specific keyhole solution.