C'mon, let's have a pathway to citizenship for illegals

Just to be clear, I believe (and so does Oscar Chacon) that deliberately creating a class of disenfranchised residents goes against the American grain. There are few precedents for consigning whole categories of people to a sub-citizen limbo, and they are not proud moments in our history. (See the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.) It is clearly in the public interest to have people become assimilated, taxpaying, participating stakeholders in our democracy. Most Americans polled, including a majority of Republicans, agree that those now in the country illegally should be allowed to eventually apply for citizenship.

If House Speaker John Boehner is willing to brave the fury of his extreme flank and put the matter to a vote, a path to citizenship stands a decent chance of passing the House with a majority of Democrats and a minority of Republicans. You might even think Republicans would want to get immigration settled and off the table so they could begin wooing Hispanic voters on more favorable ground — social issues, taxes, education. But among the people most immersed in this issue, I can’t find many who expect Boehner to suddenly become a statesman and defy his fanatics. In part, let’s be honest, that’s because the Republican stance is, “We protect America from Obama.” It is also in part because they fear newly enfranchised Hispanics will become Democrats — which the Republicans, by opposing citizenship, make a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So it may well be that supporters of immigration reform have to choose between half a loaf and none at all. Half a loaf might include a prospect of citizenship for some undocumented immigrants — the so-called Dreamers, who entered the country as children, and those in the military — but not the majority. If that’s the option, should Democrats swallow hard and take it?

Yes, and here’s why.