More than 11 million immigrants are currently residing in the United States illegally, and
the question of what to do with this growing population remains a hot-button issue, thanks in part to the considerable attention it has received in recent months from Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump.
At the crux of the issue is whether these millions of immigrants should be granted an opportunity to pursue citizenship so they can become contributing members of American society, or whether they should be punished for entering the country without following proper protocols and sent back to their countries of origin as a result. While there are obvious economic and social implications involved with deporting this population or establishing a path to citizenship, moral and ethical considerations also come into play.
The IQ2US panelists debating for the motion were Angela Kelley, executive director for the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. Debating against the motion were Steven Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies, and Rich Lowry, editor of the National Law Review.
Proponents for the motion argued that many undocumented immigrants would gladly have pursued a legal path to citizenship if additional factors hadn’t barred them from doing so. For example, it was noted that the U.S. immigration system has not undergone any significant overhaul since 1990, and that the current system allows exactly 5,000 visas to be granted. The number of immigrants seeking work visas far exceeds this number, creating a massive backlog and further complicating one’s ability to work in this country legally. Furthermore, current laws dictate that anyone in the country illegally for six months or more will be penalized by being denied a chance to pursue legal citizenship for 10 years. Given that many of these immigrants have family members and children born in the United States, few are willing to take such a risk.
Proponents also referenced logistics, noting that the nation does not currently have the resources necessary to deport 11 million immigrants, and statistics, referencing the fact that between 72 and 88 percent of U.S. citizens support some type of path to citizenship as opposed to the alternative, deportation.
Opponents of the motion countered the argument that there is no logistical way to deport 11 million people by noting that there also is no logistical way to appropriately process and vet a group of this size seeking citizenship. They also noted that letting illegal immigrants pursue a path to citizenship is essentially rewarding this population for its bad behavior, and in doing so, setting a poor precedent that may lead others to take similar actions.
Additionally, opponents referenced the fact that many less-educated Americans are having to compete with immigrants for jobs, and they also noted that most immigrants receive more in government benefits than they pay in taxes. They argued that more attention must be given to protecting U.S. borders and enforcing existing immigration laws, as opposed to using already-limited resources on helping those who came here illegally obtain citizenship.
Pre-Debate Poll Results
Prior to the debate, 66 percent of audience members were for the motion, 10 percent were against it and 24 percent were undecided.
Post-Debate Poll Results
After the debate, 55 percent of audience members were for the motion, 37 percent were against it and 8 percent were undecided.