A pathway to citizenship will probably be a part of upcoming immigration legislation. That seems to be the consensus of a panel of experts taking part in a conference Monday at Rice University's Baker Institute.
"The most likely scenario is that we get some type of comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship," explained Rice political science chairman Mark Jones. "But it's going to be a long pathway."
Twelve to fourteen years, estimates Jones; long enough to allow Republicans to make the argument that it's not the same thing as amnesty.
The immigration debate has put the GOP between a rock and a hard place.
After setting forth policies in many states that alienated Hispanics, they are now attempting to win over one of America's fastest-growing groups.
Latin voters can't be broad-brushed, said scholar Tony Payan.
"I think some values coincide with the Republican party, others with the Democratic party," said Payan. "And I think the Republicans have to understand that Hispanics are a little bit more of a complex community than they make it out to be."
Immigration reform must proceed hand-in-hand with other changes, according to Stan Marek, CEO of construction company Marek Brothers.
Citing a recent UT study showing 41% of Texas construction workers were inappropriately classified as independent contractors instead of employees, Marek insisted all employers need to play fair - and pay fairly - for the system to work.
"It's broken. And the only thing that's going to fix it is an immigration law - and it has to be very precise - that says if you're going to be a guest worker or a W-Visa worker, you need to work for an employer who pays and matches taxes."