It’s hard to believe, but even after having their asses handed to them in the last election, Republicans still haven’t gotten the memo on the issue closest to the hearts of America’s fastest-growing group of voters: immigration. With Tea Party extremists still throttling conservative common sense, it’s time for President Obama and the Democrats to seize the issue and own it. A clear and just pathway to citizenship must be at the center of the push for immigration reform.
Progressive immigration policy is not only politically wise; it is just. Undocumented immigrants and their children contribute to our economy and have earned the rights of all Americans. A reform plan without citizenship would create a new Jim Crow reality: They’d have the right to live here—but only as second class citizens. That would be wrong and completely at odds with American values.
This is a country of immigrants, and as long as it leads the world in freedom and opportunity, it always will be. It is also a rapidly changing society. The only way to ensure that our hard-won progress toward greater freedom and tolerance is embraced and carried forward by new citizens is to allow them to personally experience its benefits themselves.