The gossip in Washington is that the House of Representatives, unlike the Senate, will not have a path to citizenship, or amnesty, in its immigration reform bills.

Indeed, just a few days ago, Speaker John Boehner (R–OH) said he would bring immigration bills up for a vote only if a majority of Republicans were for it. Since many Republicans oppose amnesty, this statement would seem to indicate that amnesty would not be included in a House bill. However, there are still reasons to be concerned.


Some in Congress have suggested removing the path to citizenship as found in the Senate’s flawed bill and replacing it with a path to legal permanent residency (LPR). While this might sounds like a serious and legitimate compromise, there is in fact very little difference between LPR status and citizenship.

The main difference between LPRs and citizens is that only citizens can vote, but in almost all other respects, LPRs are equal with citizens. They have access to almost every welfare and entitlement program, meaning that the long-term costs of such a proposal would still total in the trillions of dollars.

A pathway to LPR status also ignores the rule of law and rewards those who came here illegally by granting them legal residency ahead of those who followed the law. Importantly, such amnesty would also still act as a magnet for additional illegal immigration by rewarding those who illegally entered the country. After the U.S. passed amnesty in 1986, new unlawful immigrants came to the U.S., encouraged that they too could receive amnesty eventually. As a result, the U.S. now has over 11 million unlawful immigrants. Repeating the mistake of amnesty—be it by granting a path to citizenship or to LPR status—would result in even more illegal immigration and would stretch U.S. border resources even thinner than they are now.

While the Senate seems fixated on tried-and-failed amnesty, the House is currently taking a different approach. For now, the House is rightly handling immigration reform in a piece-by-piece manner, as it allows each part of immigration policy to be considered and debated on its own merits. However, conservatives should beware of efforts to include a pathway to permanent residency as a concession to those who want amnesty. There is also the dangerous potential for each of the House’s smaller bills to be mashed together, which would allow a conference committee with the Senate to push amnesty into the House’s approach.

Amnesty, whether leading to permanent residency or citizenship, is the wrong approach. Instead, there is a better way that enforces U.S. laws, enhances U.S. security, and enables legal immigrants to more easily pursue the American Dream.