Arnold-Jones: Citizenship Without Voting Rights

Years of nonenforcement of federal immigration policies have created a community of roughly 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. – a problem mass deportations won’t fix, Janice Arnold-Jones said.

Instead, Congress should create a one-time path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who admit violating the nation’s immigration laws but have no other criminal history, said Arnold-Jones, a former state representative who is the Republican nominee for New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District seat in the U.S. House.

She suggested such new citizens should not be allowed the right to vote, while emphasizing her “idea” should be “up to discussion” and acknowledging it could require constitutional change.

“If you’ve been in our country illegally and you raised your hand and you have done everything to become a U.S. citizen, and you acknowledge that you broke the law, the consequence is withholding the right to vote even though you’re a citizen, because you cannot buy citizenship,” Arnold-Jones said.

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Illegal immigrants who don’t admit their immigration status and seek citizenship would be eligible for deportation, Arnold-Jones said.

The opinion that illegal immigrants should be given any path toward citizenship runs contrary to a national Republican platform plank opposing “any form of amnesty.”

But Arnold-Jones says she doesn’t think her proposal is amnesty. That’s because illegal immigrants who are allowed to become citizens, under her tentative plan, would not be granted the right to vote in U.S. elections.

“I know there are people who absolutely think that what I have described is amnesty. I think withholding the vote is the consequence,” she said. “I think there are actions that are not amnesty. I would welcome anybody else’s suggestion on this, but that’s a solution for me.”

Arnold-Jones said she opposes other path-to-citizenship proposals that would require immigrants to pay large fines, fees or accumulated back taxes because immigrants often don’t have the financial resources to make upfront payments.

For illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, Arnold-Jones said, citizenship classes should be provided in U.S. high schools, with formal citizenship granted upon graduation.

That proposal is similar to the Dream Act, backed heavily by Democrats, but Arnold-Jones said she opposes provisions in that legislation that create college scholarship programs for immigrant graduates.

She said those students shouldn’t be given federally funded college scholarships that are unavailable to U.S. citizens.

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Fixing past oversights

Adult illegal immigrants should be given a yearlong, one-time window to get on a track toward citizenship, Arnold-Jones said.

After that period, revised immigration policies should apply to stop the future flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S.

That means revising policies to better secure the nation’s borders and committing the federal resources necessary to enforce those updated rules, she said.

“I think we need to revisit our processes and start making them work,” Arnold-Jones said.

“You have to have the will to enforce the process. Border security in my mind is protecting us. It will encompass people coming and going legally,” she said.

Arnold-Jones said she’s more concerned about protecting the nation from Islamic terrorists passing through weak U.S. border checkpoints than Mexican travelers and immigrants.

The U.S. should also modernize its practice of issuing student and tourist visas to foreign visitors to make it easier for immigration officials to confirm that travelers left the country as planned.

Many illegal immigrants arrived in the U.S. by ignoring the end dates on those visas rather than illegally crossing the border, Arnold-Jones said.

“If (an approved visa) has not exited the country, then you need to start enforcing it,” she said.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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