Why Earned Legalization Fulfills the Potential of America

Director of Policy and Advocacy

November 6, 2014

For America to succeed, New Americans must have the skills, opportunities and status to succeed. The national social and economic benefits of legal status and eventual citizenship for all immigrants allows all Americans to fulfill their human potential.

The harsh realities of our immigration system destabilize families, tear at the fabric of neighborhoods and weaken community institutions. And, in a highly competitive global economy, America’s broken immigration system puts businesses and workers at a clear disadvantage.

Fortunately, there is broad consensus on the need to reform our ineffective and antiquated immigration system. Whether one holds a Bible, wears a badge or owns a business, Americans desire a common sense solution to our immigration system that includes earned legalization and an opportunity for citizenship to contribute as full-fledged citizens.

Public opinion polling consistently finds that the majority of people support earned legalization.

The Commonsense Solution that Works
The challenge of making our immigration system work for immigrants and for America can be solved. An earned legalization bill that does not bar citizenship is a commonsense solution that ensures hardworking, economic contributors remain with their families, contributing to the prosperity and potential of the U.S. economy.

  • Earned legalization will help families stay together. The Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project estimates that 4.5 million citizen children are living with an undocumented parent. When a mom or a dad is deported, a family is torn apart. Requiring a parent to return to a home country for years can often put that parent in harm’s way without familial support, and also prevents that parent from protecting and supporting his or her family.
  • Earned legalization will bring individuals out of the shadows and will encourage immigrants to integrate fully into American society. With approximately 11 million undocumented people living in the United States, it goes against common sense to exhaust the resources needed to round them up and force them to return to their home countries – especially for those who otherwise pose no danger and contribute to their communities. Many of them have been living in a community for some time and have put down roots or have U.S. citizen or permanent resident family members. Efforts to make our country unwelcoming to them so that they will leave are not only unrealistic, but will only make these individuals more vulnerable to exploitation. Neither option is in the spirit of this country’s values and founding ideals.
  • Earned legalization will stimulate the economy by growing the tax base. Increased tax revenues paid by the newly legalized will broaden the tax base for critical government programs, and stimulate the American economy. Furthermore, the legalization of this group will spur increased economic productivity and create employment opportunities both upstream and downstream that would benefit all Americans. According to the Regional Economic Model Inc. (REMI), legalization alone would create over 500,000 jobs by 2020. Also, the Congressional Budget Office stated that the immigration reform legislation passed by the Senate in 2013 would reduce the deficit by $200 billion over the first 10 years and nearly $1 trillion over 20 years.
  • Individuals should be able to earn legalization. Allowing individuals to earn legalization is in line with the spirit of our nation’s laws and values. Those who break laws would be able to pay fines and perform community service to make amends. Our nation values providing opportunity for those willing to work hard for it.   Earned legalization could require all of the following:
  • Paying taxes. Just as American citizens are expected to pay taxes, so are those who wish to earn legal status. The undocumented individual could be required to pay taxes owed to the federal government for the period corresponding to the time during which he/she was undocumented.
  • Paying a fine. In acknowledgement of breaking the law, the undocumented individual could be required to pay a fine as penalty in the same way fines are levied against those who break certain criminal laws.
  • Learning English and civics. Learning English and becoming familiar with the U.S. culture and government structure could be a requirement of earned legalization. Learning the English language will help ensure that this population is capable of fully integrating into the U.S. system.
  • Undergoing thorough background checks. Commonsense legislation could require undocumented individuals to undergo background checks as a precondition of earning legal status in the United States. This would ensure that U.S. national security and the rights of other citizens are respected and preserved.
  • Earned legalization must be fair to those already in line. Earned legalization should be coupled with legislation that streamlines and improves the currently cumbersome immigration system for all those currently waiting in line. Additionally, earned legalization should provide undocumented individuals with the opportunity to remain in the country while they actively work toward all the requirements that eventually lead to an opportunity to apply for citizenship.