House Registry Bill Would Help Millions of Documented, Undocumented Immigrants

Jul 20, 2022
12:30 PM

Ivania Castillo raises her fist during a protest for immigration reform with the advocacy group Casa, outside of the Republican National Committee building in Washington, on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades)

WASHINGTON — House Democrats introduced a new bill on Wednesday that would provide a simple, sturdy pathway to citizenship for millions of documented immigrants languishing in backlogs and undocumented immigrants who have waited decades for relief.

The “Renewing Immigration Provisions of the Immigration Act of 1929” is just two pages long, but the legislation’s social and economic impact would be immense, said Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) at Wednesday’s press conference. The bill provides a legalization path for workers the U.S. economy needs and offers fundamental fairness to immigrant essential workers who carried the country through the pandemic.

“Registry has a bipartisan tradition,” Espaillat said, a sentiment echoed by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) who leads the bill along with the so-called “Three Amigos” of immigration policy in the House: Espaillat, Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL), and Lou Correa (D-CA).

“The title of the bill is a reminder that this is an update on the 1929 act,” Lofgren explained in an interview with Latino Rebels. “This is nothing new. And it used to be routine, that the date would be refreshed. And we’ve been asleep at the wheel on that, so it’s time to raise the subject. This is something we’ve done for more than a century in American law and we should get back to our roots on that.”

Lofgren was quick to admit that the bill was unlikely to pass the Senate, but that the bill’s purpose was nonetheless important as a means for resetting the conversation around immigrant relief on Capitol Hill.

Registry was one of the three options put to the Senate Parliamentarian during last year’s much-publicized negotiations around the Build Back Better Act, which ultimately didn’t pass. Espaillat, Garcia, and Correa led the charge for registry in the House, as Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) did in Senate.

The new bill would create a rolling registry for immigrants who have been in the U.S. for at least seven years to come forward and register with the federal government for a green card. The bill creates no new programs, instead providing immigrants the opportunity to achieve permanent legal status in the U.S. without the rigamarole of previous relief efforts over the decades that have ultimately failed in Congress.

“The days of continuing to give Republicans a pound of flesh are over,” said Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA), one of the bill’s cosponsors. “It’s a policy that has failed.”

“Take a page from the Reagan administration,” Torres added, referring to the last major immigrant relief bill to pass Congress, the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1986 and gave a legal pathway to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants during the late eighties.

“This is an opportunity that we’re giving Congress to legalize our community,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. “It sets a framework so that we never are in a situation again, where we have this ballooning undocumented population.”


Pablo Manríquez is the Capitol Hill correspondent for Latino Rebels. Twitter: @PabloReports