Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham said illegal immigrants already in the U.S. must be given a path to citizenship, but she said more discussion is needed before committing to long-term solutions on national immigration policy.
The 1st Congressional District candidate said the nation should work to create an environment in which immigrants “are invited to stay” as the U.S. attempts to manage a population of roughly 12 million illegal immigrants already here. That group should be the primary focus of the nation’s immigration policies, she said.
There is no path to citizenship, said the former state Cabinet secretary Bernalillo County commissioner, who steps down from that post today. “Most people are afraid to even go into an immigration office and say, ‘What is required?’ because you’ll be deported,” she said.
“You have to say, we will protect individuals,” she said. “We have to set a policy first that in this country, if you demonstrate that you haven’t committed any crimes, and that you have the mechanism and means to pay back taxes and fines so you can go through a pathway, then those individuals ought to be given the support to do that.”
Lujan Grisham said she also supports the Dream Act, which would create opportunities for illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to qualify for citizenship after graduating from a U.S. high school.
Illegal immigrants, as part of their path to citizenship, should be granted a grace period or deferred payment plan for required fines, fees or back taxes to be paid over time, Lujan Grisham said. During that grace period, immigrants should have a chance to work without fear of being deported, she said.
Meanwhile, the nation should make an effort to crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants, she said.
Lujan Grisham, like her general election opponent, said the path-to-citizenship plan she endorses is not amnesty. Simply granting across-the-board citizenship to illegal immigrants without fines would discourage future immigrants from following U.S. immigration rules, she said.
Making roughly 12 million illegal immigrants U.S. citizens and collecting income taxes from them would also give the federal budget a significant boost in revenue.
“That’s tax reform in a way that people really aren’t contemplating,” Lujan Grisham said.
Unclear on future
Lujan Grisham said it’s unclear whether the path-to-citizenship model she supports should be a one-time window of opportunity for illegal immigrants already in the U.S., or if it should be available to future illegal immigrants, as well.
“I’m trying to figure out the long-haul immigration policy for the country,” Lujan Grisham said.
Congress needs a more complete debate about the degree of border control that best serves the nation’s economic and security needs, she said. So far, that conversation has been dominated by ideological extremes.
“The reality is, I don’t think there has been a discussion,” Lujan Grisham said. “I want to hear more about what is the balance to a completely open border, which limits your ability to protect national security, and a completely closed border, which limits partnering opportunities with individuals from other parts of the world.”
“I don’t know what that right size is,” she said.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal