Immigration

Bipartisan Senate Plan Would Let Illegal Immigrants Earn Citizenship in a Decade

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Illustration by Terry Colon for Reason

If you've come to the U.S. illegally, you'll have to wait a decade to earn legal status and 13 years to become a naturalized citizen under a bipartisan immigration reform plan now being drawn up in the Senate, reports The Washington Post

The 10-year wait for a green card for illegal immigrants would help ensure that the existing backlog of more than 4 million people who have applied for visas through legal measures would be processed first.

Democrats have pushed for a faster timeline, arguing that long waits could discourage immigrants from applying and maintain a second-class tier of U.S. residents not fully empowered to participate in society and the workforce. Republicans have argued that it is unfair to grant citizenship to undocumented residents more quickly than to those who have applied legally.

The Post's report files this bit into the Republicans-and-Democrats-disagree-on-the-details part of the article, but it highlights an under-discussed fact: how long and arduous the existing legal immigration process is. (You can get a pretty good sense of how insane the process is from the flow chart in our October 2008 issue.) But apparently the Senate's idea of a solution is to add yet another lengthy, arduous process on top of the old system. Creating a path to citizenship for 11 million people who do not currently have one is worth doing, but it would be nice if, in the midst of all the discussion about immigration reform, we actually talked a little bit about reforming the mess that is our existing immigration system.