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Citizenship Is a Critical Issue in Immigration Reform

file0002076316124.jpgA pathway to citizenship has been one of the major objectives of the pro-immigrant lobby in the immigration reform battle, with the Senate passing a bill in June that included a long but realizable path. The U.S. House of Representatives, which is controlled by the Republicans, has not produced a similar bill and is unlikely to in the near future. Even if the House were to create a comprehensive immigration reform package like the Senate, it is highly questionable that it would include a path to citizenship. The major sticking point in the House is the issue of border security with many major leaders arguing that citizenship would be too great an enticement for immigrants to illegally enter or stay without border protection that would halt the flow.

I have served as an immigration attorney for many years and recognize that immigration reform, whether or not it includes a path to citizenship, is likely to generate strong arguments from both sides. There is no way to tell yet, if Congress will produce any immigration reform measures and if they will include a path to citizenship.

Recent studies show that citizens make almost eight to 11 percent more in income than non-citizens. This added income would produce a significant boost to the national economy; from $21 to $45 billion could be added to the country’s Gross Domestic Product over a decade. As important to the economic arguments are changing cultural values as evidenced by a recent Gallup poll. Over the past 14 years, the majority of Americans have changed their opinion on immigration; in 1999, 44 percent wanted a decrease in immigration while only ten percent wanted an increase. Today, only 35 percent want a decrease, while almost 23 percent want immigration to grow.

Despite strong reasons to provide legal status to the almost 11 million undocumented aliens in the country, Congress and the U.S. House of Representatives in particular, are unlikely to approve a sweeping immigration reform bill. The August recess in which Congressmen return to their home districts to host town hall meetings has become a battleground for pro- and anti-immigrant forces. Many Congressmen are hearing from energized groups who are trying to sway their support. Of 233 House Republicans, 121 have been targeted by immigrant groups for lobbying.

There is considerable support among Representatives for immigration reforms that mirror those proposed in the Senate, but there is no widespread desire for a comprehensive package. Instead the House is likely to tackle immigration issues in a piecemeal manner with the most palatable issues like visas for skilled workers and rights for young immigrants likely to receive early attention.

As an immigration attorney in Austin, I have long considered that the immigration system should be changed to increase efficiency and equality. Whether Congress ultimately decides to include a path to citizenship or not, I will remain committed to assisting my clients attain the highest legal status available to them.

Lyttle Law Firm has successfully represented its clients in a variety of immigration and family law cases. To discuss your case with experienced legal professionals, please call (512) 215-5225.