Republicans anxious about the political implications of providing a “path to citizenship” for 11 million illegal immigrants console themselves that they will have at least 13 years to broaden the party’s appeal to Hispanics. It is true that most illegal immigrants will not be eligible to become citizens for at least 13 years. The Schumer-Rubio bill, however, creates an expedited citizenship process for millions of illegal immigrants. These immigrants are eligible for citizenship in just 5 years.
Under the proposal, illegal immigrants can apply for a “residential provisional immigrant” visa, enabling them to legally live and work in the US, once DHS has submitted to Congress a plan to secure the border. Generally, RPIs would be able to apply for permanent legal residency after 10 years. The legislation, however, creates a special class of immigrant.
The Schumer-Rubio bill incorporates provisions of the proposed DREAM Act. The provisions apply to individuals who, as children, were brought into the country illegally by their parents. An individual brought into the US when they were 16 or younger and has completed high school and two years towards a bachelor degree or served 4 years in the military can change their status and apply for permanent legal residency (green card) after just 5 years. Other illegal immigrants have to wait 10 years.
Under the legislation, however, DREAM immigrants can immediately apply for citizenship once the have permanent legal status. Currently, immigrants with green cards have to wait 5 years to apply for citizenship. The Schumer-Rubio legislation, however, counts the time the immigrant held an RPI visa and allows an immediate petition for citizenship. Other immigrants, once they have their green card, would have to wait three years before they could apply to become citizens.
According to a Senate office involved in the deliberations, 2-3 million immigrants would be eligible for the expedited citizenship path. In addition, these immigrants could also immediately apply for their spouses or children to be put on a path to citizenship, adding hundreds of thousands more citizens.
Of course, as citizens, these millions of new citizens are eligible to vote. Republicans may ease their minds thinking they have 13 years to broaden their outreach to Hispanics. The political implications, however, begin in just 5 years.