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Debate in Congress over citizenship for undocumented immigrants

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Immigration reform has stalled while waiting for the House to release their set of principles which should guide a new bill that symbolizes compromise for both parties. One of the principles set forth by House Republicans is offering U.S. citizenship only to children of undocumented immigrants and offering the other 11 million immigrants legal status. Immigration advocates weigh in on what opportunities and challenges this presents.

Continued fear of "amnesty" for immigrants

Republicans argue this is the optimal solution for both sides without offering amnesty. Whether immigrants receive legal status citizenship, both options prevent individuals from being subject to deportation. This gives them authorization to work legally in the U.S. as well as travel internationally.

The main difference comes along with voting. Naturalized citizens can vote and cannot be deported if they commit a crime. Immigrants who only have legal status can still be subject to deportation if they get in trouble with the law. While legal status tends to give undocumented immigrants the fundamental things they want, immigration advocate Frank Sharry says this created a “you are permanently one of them and can never be one of us” attitude.

Starting point for immigration legislation

On the other hand, another proposition is giving legal status to undocumented immigrants with the possibility of eventually extending it to citizenship. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it would be very beneficial for the U.S. economy to grow the economy and reduce the budget deficit by $900 billion by 2033.

Financially, the U.S. gains more if immigrants are granted citizenship, but some lawmakers are still not in complete support of legalization of any sort. In order to pass the obstacles to a pathway to citizenship which gives millions legal status and peace of mind from deportation, the new approach seems to be a good starting point.

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