Some have argued that the current proposal has the possibility to price the poor out of seeking citizenship.
Becoming an American citizen can be an expensive proposition. Applying for naturalization can cost $595 — according to the current United States’ Citizenship and Immigration Services’ schedule — while requesting a hearing on naturalization proceedings would cost $650. Applying for employment authorization could cost $380 and registering for permanent resident status could cost $1,020. This does not take into consideration legal fees, processing fees and years of legal ambiguity as the tedious process works it way through the bureaucratic layers.
However, for those that have entered the U.S. illegally, the economic realities of becoming a citizen can be impossible. Many of these illegal immigrants came to the U.S. with little — attempting to escape a life damaged by war, a lack of economic opportunities and/or widespread poverty. Once in the U.S., most of these immigrants cannot secure work without an I-9 — Employment Eligibility Verification — and are delegated to side jobs and illegal, low-paying jobs.
According to a 2012 Pew Hispanic Center survey, only 46 percent of Hispanic immigrants eligible to become citizens have taken the steps toward becoming naturalized. The leading reasons for the hesitation are a lack of English skills and a lack of money to pay for the application.
Despite this, the Republicans’ current proposal toward immigration reform may make this reality worse. According to a brief document drafted by the GOP leaders and distributed to House republicans during their annual policy retreat in Maryland, the Republicans called for giving young illegal immigrants that were brought to this country a chance at citizenship. For all other illegal immigrants and for future illegal immigrants, the Republicans have called for a “zero tolerance policy for those who cross the border illegally or overstay their visas in the future.”
“There will be no special path to citizenship for individuals who broke our nation’s immigration laws – that would be unfair to those immigrants who have played by the rules and harmful to promoting the rule of law,” the statement reads. “Rather, these persons could live legally and without fear in the U.S., but only if they were willing to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits). Criminal aliens, gang members, and sex offenders and those who do not meet the above requirements will not be eligible for this program.
“Finally, none of this can happen before specific enforcement triggers have been implemented to fulfill our promise to the American people that from here on, our immigration laws will indeed be enforced.”
Among the “solutions” the Republicans have proposed is an imposing of fines up to $2,000 for the illegal crossing of the border for illegal immigrants seeking legal status. The Republicans have not denoted if this legal status is citizenship or simply a form of permanent residency.
Some have argued that — while the CIS should have mechanisms in place to pay for the increase in applications a new path to citizenship may offer, the current proposal has the possibility to price the poor out of seeking citizenship.
“It’s stupid to price people out of the market,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-based think tank that supports tighter immigration.
Among the Republicans’ other proposals are the removal of unilateral power from the president to stop immigration enforcement, biometric entry and exit visa tracking and an expanded visa and green cards allocations for skilled workers and an expansion of the temporary agricultural worker program.
Many argue that this hardened position on immigration will alienate Latinos more from voting Republican, which may endanger the party’s ability to seek and hold power. In 2010, 60 percent of Hispanics voted Democrat in the midterm elections; in 2012, 71 percent of the nation’s voting Latinos voted for Barack Obama for president. Hispanics represent the largest-growing demographic in the U.S. and will be the majority race in the country by 2043, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.