A Border Patrol agent escorts a group of undocumented immigrants in the Rio Grande Valley.
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Democrats in both the House and Senate want legislation which gives a path to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants. Republicans in the House - and some in the Senate - want to give them either legal status without a path to citizenship or nothing at all. One analyst, Alexander Nowrasteh of the libertarian think tank Cato Institute, says lawmakers should craft legislation which does both. In an op-ed published in the Hill on Friday, Nowrasteh, who is an immigration policy analyst with Cato, details two different paths which undocumented immigrants could choose to pursue under the hypothetical legislation.

"The first path," he writes, "should be toward a permanent work visa where the immigrant cannot apply for citizenship unless he or she serves in the armed forces or marries an American. This visa should be very cheap - hundreds of dollars - and granted quickly after national security, criminal, and health checks." The second? A path more like that proposed in the Senate's comprehensive bill: a much more arduous and expensive one, which would lead newly authorized immigrants toward a green card and eventual citizenship. "Those legalized unauthorized immigrants who want to become citizens should be able to do so," he writes.

Nowrasteh's idea also appears to respond to both what undocumented immigrants have told polltakers they want as well as what many people did after gaining legal status in the 1986 Reagan amnesty bill. "A recent Latino Decisions poll found that 87 percent want to become citizens," he writes, in disputing conservative claims that most undocumented immigrants don't have any desire to naturalize. But Nowrasteh also takes exception to the liberal stance that legal status with a path to citizenship would make immigrants second-class citizens - a position held not just by Democratic Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, who he cites in his op-ed, but also Senator Chuck Schumer, one of the most key Democratic players in immigration reform. "If history is any guide," he writes, "many of those respondents would choose a cheaper and easier form of legalization if it was offered", pointing to the 1986 Reagan amnesty bill, which offered a green card and path to citizenship. "Almost a generation later, only 45 percent of former unauthorized immigrants have naturalized. The 2013 bill would likely produce an even lower rate of naturalization, as the path to citizenship is much more arduous than the Reagan-era bill."

"Conservatives can say that millions of unauthorized immigrants will be legalized and most won't choose citizenship, while leftists can say they created a path toward citizenship. Most importantly, the deportations can stop and immigration can be liberalized." The Latino Decisions poll, carried out in April of this year, also found that 62 percent of the nation's undocumented immigrants have children who were born in the United States, while a full 85 percent have at least one family member who is a US citizen.

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