Biden’s immigration reforms are good, but pay attention to consequences

The centerpiece of Joe Biden’s immigration reform will be a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The fastest growing segment of this population comes from three tiny countries in Central America — Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. The debate over amnesty will undoubtedly focus on the perennial question of whether it will beget further waves of illegal immigration, but viewing it only as an incentive to future migration misses another, more surprising, outcome: Many immigrants will go home. 

While permanent residents and citizens can freely move back and forth, undocumented migrants cannot. Legalization will enable beneficiaries to return to the communities from which they have been separated for many years. Decades of border crackdowns meant that undocumented immigrants could not travel back and forth without huge personal and financial risks. This is especially true for Hondurans and Guatemalans, who have large proportions of undocumented migrants compared to immigrant groups from other Latin American countries. For unauthorized immigrants, a trip home means risking everything — once they leave the U.S., they can’t come back without taking on huge amounts of debt or putting their lives at stake. A green card won’t just enable these people to remain in the U.S.  It will mean they can go home.  

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