Immigration: Should There Be a Path to Citizenship?

Submitted by: Jim Bacik

According to a 2023 Pew Research Study, by the end of 2021 the unauthorized immigrant population in the United States reached 10.5 million, about 5 million or half are considered “essential workers,” employed in healthcare, farming, food production and distribution.

As a nation, we are faced with serious challenges to our immigration policies, including whether unauthorized immigrants should be given a path to citizenship that would allow them to vote, receive government benefits such as social security, and bring family members living abroad to join them in the U.S. This process should be distinguished from “legalization” that would allow them to earn a “green card” enabling them to work in the U.S. and travel in and out of the country but would not grant them the right to vote. Unauthorized immigrants include the so-called `Dreamers` who were brought to the U.S. as children and have attended school here and typically identify as Americans, but do not have social security numbers which prevents them from getting a drivers license and applying for college. According to one estimate, there are 2.3 million Dreamers now in the U.S., about one-fifth of the total undocumented population.

According to, a non-profit charitable organization, one of the main arguments against a path to citizenship, or amnesty as opponents commonly call it, is that it rewards immigrants who broke the law at the expense of those who entered the country legally. It also incentivizes other unwary immigrants to pursue illegal means, often engaging drug cartels and smugglers to take them on expensive and dangerous journeys just to get them across the border where they are told they will be safe and secure.

On the other hand, proponents argue that immigrants who have lived in the country for years, paying taxes, and contributing to the well-being of the country deserve the opportunity to follow all the proper legal procedures to attain the great blessing of citizenship. This will help stabilize their families and make them even more productive members of society. Offering this legal path is in accord with our history as a nation of immigrants as well as a nation of laws. In short, a path to citizenship would provide relief and security for immigrant families while bringing much needed benefits to the country.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has long supported legislation that provides immigrants with a pathway to become citizens in the U.S. For example, in a 2013 statement, the bishops urged Congress to pass legislation that would allow “foreign nationals of good character to obtain lawful permanent residence with an eventual path to citizenship.” In a 2021 statement the bishops said: ”We cannot persist in relegating these members of our society to the margins, especially when we simultaneously depend on so many of then for our collective well-being.” In 2022, the USCCB urged Congress to pass legislation that would provide all Dreamers with a path to citizenship, a “permanent solution” that is just, compassionate and beneficial to both new immigrants and American citizens.


What is my position on providing a path to citizenship?

About the Author

Fr. James J. Bacik has served as a priest of the Diocese of Toledo since his ordination in 1962. He is a widely regarded theologian, writer, lecturer and pastor who served as campus minister and adjunct professor of humanities at the University of Toledo for more than 30 years. Fr. Bacik is an AUSCP member. Visit his website at

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