Monday, November 8, 2010

The Path to Legal Immigration Today

Today, as we discussed the 14th Amendment, we learned that Senator Mitch McConnell believes that it should be reviewed because of questions about illegal immigration.  In August, Senator John Kyl said, "There is a constitutional provision in the 14th Amendment that has been interpreted to provide that, if you are born in the United States, you are a citizen no matter what. … And so the question is, if both parents are here illegally, should there be a reward for their illegal behavior?"

In the midst of that discussion, some of you asked how legal immigration works today.  It's very different from when my great-grandparents came to the United States through Ellis Island.  Back then, if you could buy a ticket to New York City, if you had some money in your pocket and a place to stay once you got to the U.S.A., and if you didn't have a terrible contagious disease, you could become a citizen very quickly and easily.

These days, it's different.  This cartoon is the best summary I've found of how to become a legal immigrant in the United States today.  Click on it to zoom in.
What do you think of this path to legal immigration?  Does it seem simple or complicated?  Why do you think it takes so long for people to become citizens?  Why do you think the United States favors people whose family members already live here?  Why do you think they favor skilled people (i.e. those with college degrees, especially in fields like science and engineering) over unskilled people (i.e. those without college degrees or extraordinary abilities)?


  1. I understand the people who want to change what it means to be a citizen of the U.S. It takes about 10 years to become legaly. If you are caught here illegaly it will take about 20 years to come back here.
    - Chelsea V.

  2. Chelsea, thanks for writing! How would you want to change the path to become a citizen? Would you make it easier for people to become citizens or harder? To be clear, the people who want to change the citizenship rules want to make it harder for certain people to become citizens--specifically the children of illegal immigrants. Do you agree with that? Other folks, please share your ideas too!