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Immigration Reform

The United States is a nation of immigrants and the League of Women Voters has a long history of encouraging their participation in American society. The fabric and identity of our nation are woven by immigrants. It is critical for the U.S. to encourage their participation in our democracy. Our work around comprehensive immigration reform largely falls into the following categories: 

Working for a Path to Citizenship

Rooted in the belief that our democracy is enhanced by a diversity of voices, the League believes that a path to citizenship, or provisions for unauthorized immigrants already living in the U.S. to earn legal status, will strengthen our nation and society. We believe that in order to become citizens, immigrants must learn about our system of government, understand the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and swear allegiance to the United States of America. These are basic steps to integration in American society, and it is in the interest of current citizens, immigrants and future generations that we build one nation. We have lobbied both the House and Senate for a path to citizenship, and we have lobbied in support of the DREAM Act, critical legislation that would enable immigrant youth to become fully productive members of American society.

Helping Immigrants Become Active Participants in Our Democracy 

Voter education and voter registration are the foundation of the League’s work. We believe that the strongest democracy is one in which the voices of all participants are heard. As such, the League is committed to helping new citizens become active in American political life. We do this by providing civic education and registering tens of thousands of new voters at naturalization ceremonies in communities across the country.

The League’s History

In the 111th Congress, the League lobbied in support of the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act that would provide a path to citizenship for young immigrants who complete a college degree or serve in the military, thereby enabling them to be a fully productive part of American society. The legislation passed the House, but lacked enough votes to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. 

The League’s Position

Statement of Position on Immigration, as Announced by National Board, April 2008:

The League of Women Voters believes that immigration policies should promote reunification of immediate families; meet the economic, business and employment needs of the United States; and be responsive to those facing political persecution or humanitarian crises. Provision should also be made for qualified persons to enter the United States on student visas. All persons should receive fair treatment under the law.

The League supports federal immigration law that provides an efficient, expeditious system (with minimal or no backlogs) for legal entry of immigrants into the United States.

To complement these goals the League supports federal policies to improve economies, education, job opportunities and living conditions in nations with large emigrating populations.

In transition to a reformed system, the League supports provisions for unauthorized immigrants already in the country to earn legal status.

The League supports federal payments to impacted communities to address the financial costs borne by state and local governments with large immigrant populations.

Criteria for Legal Admission to the United States

The League supports the following criteria for legal admission of persons into the United States:

  • Family reunification of spouses or minor children with authorized immigrants or citizens
  • Flight from persecution or response to humanitarian crises in home countries
  • Economic, business and employment needs in the Unites States
  • Education and training needs of the United States
  • Educational program opportunities
  • Lack of a history of serious criminal activity

Administration and Enforcement

The League supports due process for all persons, including the right to a fair hearing, right to counsel, right of appeal and right to humane treatment.

The League supports:

  • Improved technology to facilitate employer verification of employee status;
  • Verification documents, such as status cards and work permits, with secure identifiers;
  • Significant fines and penalties for employers who hire unauthorized workers;
  • Improved technology for sharing information among federal agencies;
  • More effective tracking of individuals who enter the United States; and
  • Increased personnel at borders.

The League also supports programs allowing foreign workers to enter and leave the United States to meet seasonal or sporadic labor needs.

Unauthorized Immigrants Already in the United States

In achieving overall policy goals, the League supports a system for unauthorized immigrants already in the country to earn legal status, including citizenship, by paying taxes, learning English, studying civics and meeting other relevant criteria. While policy reforms, including a path to legal status, remain unachieved, the League does not support deporting unauthorized immigrants who have no history of criminal activity.