Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, who is also chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus's Task Force on Immigration, discusses Republican candidates' proposals to legalize but deny citizenship to immigrants.
Unfortunately for voters, Republican candidates and office holders are convinced that 10 to 11 million people can be forced out of the United States. That is a population roughly the size of Ohio or Georgia. Two-thirds of the 10-11 million immigrants living here illegally have been here more than a decade and about half have children, most of whom are U.S. citizens themselves. Even in the greatest recession of our lifetimes, when jobs are hard to find for everyone and illegal immigration has slowed to a trickle and states are passing harsher and harsher laws, not many of these 10-11 million immigrants are choosing to "self-deport," to use Mitt Romney's phrase.
American voters are much more practical than Republican lawmakers and candidates. Even those who wish 10-11 million people will leave the U.S. realize that it is not going to happen. They are right. The Republican approach to the immigration issue rests on pure fantasy.
So what do you do with a population of 10-11 million people who live, work, and have families in the U.S.? Most Democrats and most voters want to get them into the system, on-the-books, and complying with the law. To do this, proposals have been put forth to force immigrants to pay fines, pass criminal background checks and other screenings, learn English, and live in a probationary period for a time in order to earn the ability to avoid deportation and eventually apply to be a "Legal Permanent Resident" (which allows you to ultimately apply to become a citizen after a number of years). This eliminates the black market, makes enforcement much more efficient, weeds out serious criminals, allows honest employers to retain and hire a legal workforce, and ensures that labor laws, taxation and a number of other rules are applied evenly across the board.