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Should the U.S. Offer a Path to Citizenship/Legal Residency for Illegal Immigrants?


Today, most of the U.S. population consists of illegal or undocumented immigrants. Similarly, there have been unending debates from far and wide on the impacts of illegal migration on the country’s socioeconomic status. Over the years, the U.S. has witnessed a surge in the population of illegal immigrants, with the majority coming from Mexico, Central America, Asia and Africa. The dynamics of illegal immigration have changed over time too, and so are peoples’ opinions on the same. Some people hold the view that illegal immigrants should not be offered citizenship or legal residency by the U.S. government, while others have the idea that the government should find appropriate ways to accommodate illegal immigrants and grant them legal residency or citizenship. Therefore, illegal immigration is an issue that has brought about sharp divisions among Americans. The paper explores why the U.S. government should offer easy paths or channels for citizenship or legal residency for illegal immigrants.

The State of Illegal Immigration in the U.S.

Since time immemorial, there have been cases of people crossing the U.S. borders from other bordering countries and states, with the majority coming from Mexico. According to Zaiour & Peri (2021), Mexico is the country that contributes significantly to the population of illegal or undocumented immigrants in the U.S.; it accounts for over 20 percent of the immigrant population. Countries and states such as the Philippines, India and China collectively contribute to about 16 percent of the people. Even the presence of stringent customs law in the U.S. could not deter illegal immigrants, and as it stands currently, there are more than 45 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., translating to about 240,000 people illegally crossing into the U.S. in a month. People move into the U.S. for several reasons, seeking work, asylum and family reunification. By 2065, a section of researchers, data analysts and demographers project the population of illegal or undocumented immigrants in the U.S. to hit a record high of 40 percent. Most illegal immigrants are construction and plantation workers, truck drivers, and medics. Therefore, such people are not only illegally within the U.S. borders but also add some value and balance to the economic, social and political infrastructures.

Economic and Social Benefits of Illegal Immigrants

The U.S. government should grant illegal immigrants citizenship or legal permanent residency because they significantly contribute to economic growth. Savior & Peri (2021) assert that legally incorporating illicit immigrants into American society would increase the U.S.’s gross domestic product (GDP) by about USD 1.8 trillion over the next few decades, translating to a rise in income or wages for all Americans, creation of hundreds of thousands of new employment opportunities and ultimately, advancement of the country’s social, political and social growth. Opponents argue that the American economy is already fragile, and allowing illegal immigrants would further deteriorate the economy and subject the legal residents to an untold economic crisis. The assertions do not hold water, and currently, about 10 million illegal immigrants live and work in different states across the U.S.; they work really hard to ensure that they contribute adequately to their well-being and the country’s GDP. And illegal immigrants in the U.S. work twice as harder as native or legal residents in the U.S. Therefore, the government should establish policies that would encourage illegal immigration in the U.S.

Consequently, as America recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, illegal immigrants have been at the heart of economic and social recoveries owing to their important roles in providing essential services. According to Hackl (2022), most people who served or are still serving in the crucial service departments across the U.S., such as nurses, doctors, nutritionists and truck drivers, are illegal or undocumented immigrants who have dedicated their life to serving humanity with dignity. Such people deserve nothing but recognition by the government; they perform to the best of their ability; they should be placed on a path to permanent and legal residency. Others quickly argue that immigrants who cross U.S. borders illegally should face law or deportation. Some people have lived within the U.S. borders for over sixteen years and have proved their worth as productive and law-abiding members of their communities; however, they are still regarded by the government as non-citizens. There is a way that the government should fully incorporate such productive individuals into American society by granting them citizenship or legal residency. Such productive immigrants are what America needs at the moment.

Americans’ Views on Illegal Immigrants

Some Americans believe that providing legal and permanent residency pathways to illegal immigrants would boost the American economy and enhance social ties. Altman et al. (2021) note that eight-in-ten Americans, representing about 72 percent, hold the opinion that the government should devise strategies for granting legal residency to illegal immigrants in the U.S. owing to their immense contribution to the well-being and growth of the American economy, social and political infrastructure. In essence, a majority of the American population is in support of illegal immigrants if they meet certain requirements. Another 28 percent propose stringent laws that discourage unlawful immigration; they believe illegal immigrants are a serious menace to Americans and therefore want illegal immigrants to face the law or deportation.

In addition, about 50 percent of Americans believe that illegal immigration has, over the years, played significant roles in strengthening the country and, therefore, the government should provide pathways for citizenship or legal residence. In essence, most Americans’ viewpoints, opinions and thoughts call on the government to provide courses and easy avenues for illegal immigrants to acquire citizenship or legal stay in the U.S. (Roche et al., 2021). They are part of the communities and have contributed greatly to strengthening American traditional values and customs. In a nutshell, the U.S. government should offer a path to citizenship or legal residency for illegal immigrants as long as they contribute positively to developing and building the country.


Providing a pathway to legal residency or citizenship for all illegal immigrants in the U.S. requires a concerted effort. The current administration, Congress, human rights advocates and policymakers should establish meaningful strategies to treat unlawful immigrants fairly and humanely. Most illegal immigrants hold some of the important pillars for economic growth; they are essential service providers, create employment opportunities and pay taxes, thus contributing to and stabilizing the American gross domestic product (GDP). The U.S. government can employ critical scenarios or strategies to cluster and incorporate illegal immigrants into American society. They include; essential workers, dreamers and those who qualify for temporary protected status (TPS) or a combination of crucial workers, TPS and dreamers. Therefore, granting citizenship or legal residence to illegal immigrants would stabilize the U.S. politically and go a long way to boost GDP, create employment opportunities and improve wages. Illicit immigrants deserve a sense of belonging and feel part of American society, and therefore, the U.S. government should either grant them citizenship or permanent residency, given that some of them have lived in the country for more than fifteen years as law-abiding members of the communities.

References List

Altman, C. E., Heflin, C. M., Jun, C., & Bachmeier, J. D. (2021). Material Hardship Among Immigrants in the United States: Variation by Citizenship, Legal Status, and Origin in the 1996–2008 SIPP. Population Research and Policy Review40(3), 363-399.

Hackl, A. (Ed.). (2022). Permitted Outsiders: Good Citizenship and the Conditional Inclusion of Migrant and Immigrant Minorities. Taylor & Francis.

Roche, K. M., White, R., Rivera, M. I., Safa, M. D., Newman, D., & Falusi, O. (2021). Recent immigration actions and news and the adjustment of US Latino/a adolescents. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology27(3), 447.

Savior, R., & Peri, G. (2021). Citizenship for Undocumented Immigrants Would Boost U.S. Economic Growth. Building an Economy for All: DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DREAM Act, Economy, and Immigration.


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