President Barack Obama and a group of eight senators have recently unveiled their immigration proposals.
Each plan offers a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. There is strident opposition to these plans because it is unfair. It's unfair because millions of legal immigrants have done it the right way, applying for a visa, and waiting years before finally taking the citizenship oath.
But is there a case to allow illegal immigrants to stay?
David Brooks, writing in the New York Times, said it is actually good for the economy.
Immigrants are 30 percent more likely to start new businesses than native-born Americans, according to a research summary by Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney of The Hamilton Project. They are more likely to earn patents. A quarter of new high-tech companies with more than $1 million in sales were also founded by the foreign-born.
Other arguments against illegal immigration stick to the costs tax payers accrue due to emergency room visits, welfare and other benefits. Brooks addressed that too.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, giving the current illegals a path to citizenship would increase the taxes they pay by $48 billion and increase the cost of public services they use by $23 billion, thereby producing a surplus of $25 billion.
And like it or not, illegal immigration does have its benefits.
Thanks to the labor of low-skill immigrants, the cost of food, homes and child care comes down, living standards rise and more women can afford to work outside the home.
I'll admit I have a funny view about citizenship because I never had to earn mine. I was just lucky enough to be born in the United States. Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights."
All men. Not just Americans.
I, too, believe that we are all born free (only governments take away natural rights). Because I share that belief I believe immigrants, both legal and illegal, are born with the same right to pursue "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness" as I do.
I'm not saying everyone is entitled to become an American citizen, but I am saying everyone shares the same rights I do.
When it comes to citizenship, politicians make the rules. The current rules are outdated and have been since 1986. Congress is in no rush to fix them. Brooks argues the economic benefits should afford illegal immigrants the right to stay, but I think we need to look at it from another point of view.
There is a literal and tangible monetary value of being an American citizen. We are all entitled to receive health care and retirement benefits. Welfare is available if needed. Some of these benefits are available regardless of how long you've been a citizen. Maybe it is time to change that.
Benefits should be earned. Either earned through some type of public service or for paying taxes for a certain amount of years. I'm not saying I have all the answers but I do know that most of them come down to money. Let's address that.
Then we can tackle illegal immigration.