Comprehensive immigration reform is on the agenda for 2013, but it should be coupled with revamped civics education, national service, and more.
"A path to citizenship." Get used to that phrase: We're going to be hearing it a lot in 2013. Since the Republican Party got hard electoral evidence of its problem with Latino voters (and Asian voters, and basically voters of color and immigrants in general), some GOP leaders have become highly motivated to negotiate a deal for comprehensive immigration reform.
A key part of any such deal will be whether and how undocumented immigrants can step out of the shadows and onto a much-discussed but ill-defined path to citizenship. The DREAMers -- young undocumented immigrants who, under the long-stalled DREAM Act would've been able to earn citizenship by going to the military or to college -- are the hopeful face and voice of reform advocacy. And because they embody an appealing case for reform, they may be able to lead a push that normalizes life for millions of other immigrants, documented or not.
That would be great, for them and ultimately for the entire country. But for all the attention being paid to the creation of a path, we're neglecting the destination: citizenship itself. What is this thing that needs to be earned? What, besides a bundle of rights, does the status entail and require? What do longstanding citizens take for granted and what is asked of brand-new Americans?