What Would a Conservative Immigration Reform Look Like?

On Sunday, I was invited to C-SPAN to discuss immigration reform and APIA’s new five-point action plan to fix our country’s immigration system.  You can see the full video, as well as an excerpt of the discussion, below:

Steven Scully: “I want to share with you a poll that came out a couple of months ago. It’s available online at washingtonpost.com. But as you look at the breakdown of how Democrats and Republicans view the issue of immigration, 70 percent of those self-identified Republicans say they oppose any path to citizenship. Seven zero…”

Alfonso Aguilar: “Right, but the problem is with this issue that it has been oversimplified, mainly by Democrats, saying that the issue is about a path to citizenship, and that is not true. The majority of Republicans do not oppose a path to legal status, bringing people out of the shadows. The important thing is to give them a legal status. But this is not necessarily a special path to citizenship. That is what we’re talking about.

Photo credit: Craig Nagy via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Photo credit: Craig Nagy via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

“The majority of Republicans are not saying, ‘let’s close the door to citizenship.’ But if you want to become a citizen, you would have to follow the path established by current law, which means you would have to get to the back of the line, not cutting in line. So the question here is really not the path to citizenship, but we shouldn’t give them a special path to citizenship.  And that’s what Democrats are proposing: some sort of entitlement, that we would pass a law that would guarantee that people reach citizenship. And there are a lot of people waiting outside of the country for many years to enter legally as immigrants and eventually become citizens, and it would be very unfair to them.

“Now, if you look at polling, for the majority of Latino voters, the most important thing is for people to come out of the shadows, not a path to citizenship. So that, I think, is what Republicans are proposing. Let me tell you, if Republicans were to propose a bill that would provide a legalization program, a path to legal status short of citizenship, I think the majority of Latino voters, the majority of the immigrant community, would respond very favorably to that proposal.”

Alfonso Aguilar is the executive director of American Principles in Action’s Latino Partnership.