A group of House Democrats are working to create a pathway for legal status for millions of undocumented immigrants through a change in already-existing federal law — one that’s been enacted more than a handful of times before.
Rep. Lou Corea, D-Calif., headlines a group of Democrats from California, New York and Illinois that plans to reintroduce the "Renewing Immigration Provisions of the Immigration Act of 1929" bill on Thursday.
“What we're going to do is look at passing immigration reform that's very simple, to do it on one page. It’s not thousands of pages, it’s one page: Change the registry date,” Correa said in an interview with Spectrum News.
The Registry Act of 1929 created a process allowing immigrants to apply for permanent residency — better known as a “green card” — provided they could prove they arrived in the U.S. before 1921, and met a handful of other criteria.
The Registry Act has been updated a handful of times over the decades, including in 1986, when the cutoff was moved to Jan. 1, 1972.
“So if you're an undocumented person in the US and you got here before 1972, you can apply to change your status — that is, trying to apply for a legal green card,” Correa said. “It's not automatic, but you get it. And what our bill does is simply updates that date to 2015.”
“We need immigrants. Right now we have, 10, 11 million undocumented workers in the United States. Fifty percent of all farmworkers are undocumented. We need more farm workers,” Correa said.
“Every day, the U.S. Chamber calls me and says we need workers. Every day, small businesses call me and say we need workers,” Correa added. “How do we fill those jobs we need to fill in the United States?”
Last session, the House of Representatives took action on two immigration-focused bills: the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021, which would have created a path to legal status for certain undocumented farm workers; and the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021, which would have provided “dreamers” — undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as minors — protection from deportation and an opportunity to obtain permanent legal status.
Both bills died in the Senate.
But now that Republicans control the House, Democrats will face a much more difficult path to passing immigration bills than they did even in the last congressional session. It’s unclear if this new bill will get enough support from Republicans to make out of the House, much less the Senate.
“I've talked to a lot of my Republican colleagues that, for example, represent agricultural areas that need workers. And they've said to me, ‘yes, we'll support you, but we can't come out and help you because we'll get primaried and we will lose our job,’” Correa lamented. “So the question really becomes, at what point in our country do we get beyond the politics and begin to focus on the fact we need workers?”
In a joint press release announcing bill, other Democrats took a much harsher tone with their colleagues across the aisle.
“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,” said former immigration lawyer Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., who sponsored the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.
“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,” Lofgren added.