A significant feature of a ‘green card’ is the owner’s right, after three to five years, to apply for citizenship through naturalization. Thus, if the GOP plan leads, sooner or later, to ‘green cards,’ then it also leads, in time, to the right to apply for citizenship.
If the GOP is intent on shutting off any potential ‘path to citizenship’ for new immigrants, it will have to create something new in immigration law, a type of ‘permanent temporary’ visa that allows the owner to live and work in the U.S. permanently, yet never ‘upgrade’ to green card status.
This question is the center of debate now playing out among immigration reform advocates, some of whom are willing to accept (for the time being) a compromise versus those who insist that a path to citizenship must remain a part of any comprehensive reform. Many point to recent polls showing protection from deportation as more important than a path to citizenship for many Hispanics and Asian Americans. And a recent open letter from DREAMers asks advocates to ‘focus on a practical legislative solution for immediate relief for families, even if it doesn’t include a special path to citizenship.’
In any case, whatever new type of visa is created, Congress must address the horrible current visa backlogs that compel people to cross illegally today rather than wait 30 years or more for a green card.