Citizenship Waiting Period Debated

Two waiting periods that immigrants must endure before gaining permanent, legal U.S. citizenship are under debate by the senators who are working to overhaul immigration law. According to The New York Times, the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States would have to wait 10 years for green cards, but could earn full citizenship within three years after that period.

Under current law, it takes five years to become a naturalized citizen, but only eight to be allowed to permanently work in the United States. Negotiations over these arrangements have recently heated up, as the senators spearheading the overhaul hope to announce immigration legislation by early April. Senators from both political parties met to hash out the deal on March 14, but the agreement is still in the works.

“It is an unusual construction, but it gets them to citizenship in the same time as the administration plan,” Kevin Appleby, director of migration policy at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, told The Times regarding the proposed agreement. “Most importantly, it eliminates the prospect of a permanent underclass by ensuring that, in time, all will have the opportunity to become Americans.”

Representatives from both parties said that a 10-year waiting period would allow enough time to clear out the existing backlog of immigration cases so that illegal immigrants would have to wait in line behind those who entered legally.

Public policy researchers at the University of California, Riverside, recently launched a new website that documents the latest research, data and scholarly commentary on immigration in the United States. The site is intended to provide accurate information for government officials, community organizations, journalists, scholars and the general public.