Padilla Introduces Legislation to Broaden Lawful Pathway to Citizenship

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) introduced legislation to expand a pathway to permanency for millions of long-term U.S. residents. The Renewing Immigration Provisions of the Immigration Act of 1929 would update the existing Registry statute so that an immigrant may qualify for lawful permanent resident status if they have lived in the U.S. continuously for at least seven years before filing an application for lawful permanent resident status and are of good moral character. The bill is co-sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.). Companion legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.-19).

The legislation would provide a much-needed pathway to a green card for more than 8 million people, including Dreamers, forcibly displaced citizens (TPS holders), children of long-term visa holders, essential workers, and highly skilled members of our workforce such as H-1B visa holders who have been waiting years for a green card to become available. According to estimates, if the undocumented individuals covered in this bill became citizens, they would contribute approximately $121 billion to the U.S. economy annually and about $35 billion in taxes.

“America’s outdated immigration system is hurting countless people and holding back our country and our economy,” said Senator Padilla. “My bill would update the Registry cutoff date for the first time in more than 37 years so that more immigrants are eligible to apply for permanent resident status. This would have a profound impact on millions of immigrants, some of whom have been living, working, and contributing to the United States for decades, by allowing them to live freely without the fear of an uncertain future.”

“Our immigration system is deeply broken and has prevented many long-term U.S. residents from earning citizenship from the country they now call home. We cannot rely on antiquated laws to dictate modern day immigration policy,” said Senator Durbin. “This legislation would allow immigrants to claim lawful permanent resident status after living in the U.S. for seven years and demonstrating good moral character. Updating the existing Registry statute would give immigrants, who have been working and contributing to our country for nearly a decade, the sense of certainty and stability that everyone deserves.”

“Millions of immigrants have made crucial contributions to the United States, only to be met with a broken system that shuts the doors on them,” said Senator Warren.“Expanding the registry pathway to citizenship for people who have lived in this country for years will provide the stability and opportunity they deserve.”

“Immigrant communities contribute and enrich our society,” said Senator Luján. “Yet, our current immigration system leaves countless lives in limbo and prevents undocumented immigrants from fully participating in our economy. That’s why I’m proud to join my colleagues to reintroduce this legislation that updates the Registry cutoff date for the first time in 35 years, providing a pathway for millions of immigrants to adjust their status and unlock their boundless potential.”

“For decades, immigrants who contribute significantly to our communities and our economy have been relegated to a legal limbo,” said Representative Zoe Lofgren. “While the extreme MAGA Republicans make dozens of trips to the border and perform other political stunts, my colleagues and I are once again focusing on immigration action by reintroducing this commonsense registry legislation that is simply an update of the law that was first put in place in 1929. As our predecessors in the 70th Congress understood, providing stability to those who are of good character and who have resided here for a significant period of time is good for America. Updating this historically-bipartisan provision to provide lawful permanent resident status to vetted immigrants who have been a part of our communities for years will make our country stronger.”

Section 249 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, also known as the Registry, gives the Secretary of Homeland Security the discretion to register certain individuals for lawful permanent resident status if they have been in the country since a certain date and meet other requirements. Section 249 was first codified in 1929 and Congress has modified it four times, most recently during the Reagan Administration in 1986. No changes have been made since 1986, and the cutoff date for eligibility remains January 1, 1972 — more than 50 years ago.

The Renewing Immigration Provisions of the Immigration Act of 1929 would:

  • Amend the existing Registry statute by moving the eligibility cutoff date so that an immigrant may qualify for lawful permanent resident status if they have been in the U.S. for at least seven years before filing an application under Registry.
  • Preempt the need for further congressional action by making the eligibility cutoff rolling, instead of tying it to a specific date, as it is now.

“Closing in on 40 years since the last major overhaul of our nation’s immigration laws, we applaud the bold leadership of Senators Padilla, Durbin, Warren Luján, Sanders and Booker to move Congress to update the registry, an existing immigration law that could offer the opportunity for millions of immigrants to access permanent residency,” said Angelica Salas, CHIRLA Executive Director. “With TPS under constant threat, DACA on life support, and millions of farmworkers, essential workers, and countless contributing members of our society still living without legal status for decades, we call on Congress to update the registry now, and to do so with a strong bipartisan vote, as was the case with the last four previous updates since its inception in 1929.”

“I have lived in the U.S. for over 34 years, worked in dozens of industries and have seen my children and grandchildren grow up in this country, our home.  And yet, I cannot say I am fully free because I am missing a most unique and important piece of paper.  I would like to feel once and for all that I belong, that I am recognized, and that I matter,” said Andrea Guadarrama, CHIRLA member for the past 19 years.

“I am a TPS holder from Nepal who has lived in this country for nearly 35 years. For more than half my life, in pursuit of my American dream. I have struggled, worked hard through many odd jobs, acquired college degrees, and built my life and family in this country. Thanks to the protection provided by TPS, I have been finally able to live and work legally in this country for the past eight years. This country has become my home. However, hundreds of thousands of TPS holders like myself are forced to live in constant fear and anxiety of not knowing if our right to live and work in this country will be taken away from us at any moment because TPS is temporary. Despite our commitment to do well for our families and communities here, we have been treated unfairly for years by having been denied any permanency. The only humanitarian and viable solution for us is a pathway to citizenship, which the Registry Bill seeks to offer. We demand that the Congress act and do the right thing. Pass the Registry Bill,” said Anil Shahi, TPS Holder from Nepal & Organizer with Adhikaar & Communities United for Status & Protection (CUSP).

“This bill is the best solution for Americans and immigrants alike,” celebrates NAKASEC Co-Director Jung Woo Kim. “Millions of people are forced to live in fear, uncertainty, and danger because the immigration system is outdated, inefficient, and inept to cope with the ever-changing world. With the DACA program continually under attack, it’s clear that short-term permission slips are unable to meet the country’s basic needs. By simply updating the registry date, the U.S. immigration system is better able to meet current and future needs of im/migrants, Americans, and world citizens. Every person has a right to live safely, fully, and with their loved ones. We need permanent solutions that allow all immigrants without citizenship protection to seek safety, as well as a better life for themselves and their families – not policies that would separate families and pit our communities against each other.”

Senator Padilla knows firsthand the enormous contributions that immigrants make to our communities and economy. As the first ever Latino to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety, he is leading the fight for immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship for immigrants. Earlier this year, Padilla reintroduced a bill to create a pathway to citizenship for the immigrant essential workers who have bravely worked on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Padilla is also the lead sponsor of a bipartisan bill to provide a pathway to citizenship for Documented Dreamers — the children of long-term visa holders who may face deportation after age 21 without a green card or other immigration status.

Full text of the bill is available here.


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