Neither Deportation nor Amnesty

An Alternative for the Immigration Debate Building a Bridge Across the Deportation–Amnesty Divide

by Douglas C. Ligor

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This Perspective examines the current debate surrounding the issue of individuals present in the United States without lawful immigration status. Approximately 11 million individuals living in the United States lack the immigration documentation to legally reside in the country and accept employment. This Perspective relies on the proposition that the primary obstacle to an immigration modus vivendi is an unnecessary, damaging adherence by two contending sides to all-or-nothing solutions (either full deportation or amnesty). The "rule-of-law" side insists on the deportation of anyone unlawfully present in the United States. The "humanitarian" side insists that most individuals unlawfully present should be eligible to remain permanently under some form of amnesty. This Perspective proposes that minor changes in existing immigration law, specifically in the statute known as "Cancellation of Removal," offer a compromise solution for millions of individuals. This option would avert the necessity for either side to abandon their principles, or to cross the Rubicon-like barrier that full-scale comprehensive legislation currently represents. In doing so, it is possible that both the "rule of law" and "humanitarian" sides might forge a pragmatic political, legal, and policy compromise that could serve both positions and provide a potential solution to address this extremely difficult societal question.

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