We support creating a pathway for legal residency for immigrants who are here illegally. We also support moving to a more merit-based immigration system and establishing a guest worker program.

If you have already made up your mind, then scroll to the bottom of the page and take the poll to let us know how you feel. If you need to hear more, please read the background section below.


America is, predominantly, a nation of immigrants.

We owe much of our vitality as a nation to our ability to welcome and assimilate immigrants.  Our own success as a nation has created a situation in which we find ourselves attracting more immigrants than we are politically willing to accept.  The gradual growth of state supported, social welfare programs in America has also made it economically unsustainable to have essentially open borders. 

Our efforts to restrict immigration have led to a vast underground economy of illegal workers. We need a way to control our borders. We also need to find a way to treat those who have immigrated illegally fairly, and put an end to the underground economy of undocumented immigrants.  This system also needs to be fair to those who have immigrated legally.

A Fair Path To Legal Residency

We propose creating a path to legal residency, for immigrants who are here illegally and who have no criminal record. We have not included a path to citizenship, because we believe that to be a politically insurmountable hurdle. The quid pro quo for this path is a period of time before full legal residency, during which those currently here illegally will pay a surtax, above their normal taxes, of 20% to federal, state, and local governments. To do otherwise would be unfair to immigrants who are here legally. 

During this transition period, these immigrants would also be required to remain law abiding or face deportation. Enforcement requires that we make employers liable to verify the immigration status of their employees. The program would be a one time option. Any immigrant who is here illegally and who had not registered for the program within six months of its initiation would be subject to deportation.

We also believe that the U.S. should establish a formal guest worker program that would allow workers to enter the U.S. and work for a fixed period of time and then return home. Undocumented workers who do not wish to enter the transition program for legal residency would be eligible for the guest worker program.

In addition, subsidized health care insurance would only be available to citizens and legal residents. Immigrants, on the path to acquiring full legal status, and guest workers would be required to purchase health care insurance on their own, unless provided by their employers. Failure to do so would also be grounds for deportation.

During the transition period, the children of immigrants in the transition program would be eligible for public education at all levels, with the same rights as legal permanent residents.  

If we adopt this approach, it should reduce the demand for immigrating into the U.S. illegally and provide a reasonable basis for transitioning to a fully legal work force.  

This would not require mass deportation because most individuals would self-deport if they could not find employment.  

Special Skills and Immigration

America disadvantages itself in a number of ways by restricting the ability of those with valuable skills in science and technology from immigrating to the U.S. This is particularly true for those who have received advanced degrees in the U.S. and then have to leave. We believe that we should expand immigration opportunities for this source of talent. This approach is consistent with a more merit-based approach to immigration similar to that adopted by Canada.  

Sanctuary Cities

The dispute over sanctuary cities is largely a product of our inability to reach a reasonable compromise on the issues of granting legal status to immigrants who are here illegally. Local authorities fear that undocumented residents may be reluctant to cooperate with the police in solving non-immigration based crimes, if they fear being deported. Conversely, those who want local law enforcement to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) fear that without this cooperation criminals who are here illegally, including gang members, may elude the legal system. What evidence there is on the question appears to indicate that crime rates in sanctuary cities are not significantly different from those in cities that do not adopt this approach.

From a completely separate perspective, imposing the responsibility on local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law is an example of imposing another unfunded mandate on state and local governments. As such, conservatives should oppose imposing this obligation on local governments.   We believe that the proposals outlined above for granting legal status to those who are currently here illegally, but who have no serious criminal record, would make the issue of sanctuary cities effectively moot.    

Go to the Table of Contents or to the Next Policy Position