WASHINGTON — A group of Democratic Senators reintroduced a bill Friday that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a green card. Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., is leading the effort on Senate Bill 2606, which would update the 1929 Immigration Act to make more immigrants eligible to apply for permanent resident status.
“America’s outdated immigration system is hurting countless people and holding back our country and our economy,” Padilla said in a statement.
The bill would update a law known as the Registry Act, which created a process to allow immigrants to apply for permanent residency through a green card program as long as they arrived in the U.S. before a certain date. When the law was first passed in 1929, immigrants needed to prove they had arrived in the U.S. before 1921 to be eligible.
While the cutoff date has been updated over the subsequent decades, the last time was in 1986, when the Immigration Reform and Control Act moved the date to Jan. 1, 1972.
The current cutoff date of 1972 “is no longer fulfilling its intended purpose,” said Angelica Salas, executive director for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Los Angeles. “The cutoff date for eligibility is too far in the past to be relevant for millions of immigrants living and contributing in our communities.”
Nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants live in the U.S., according to the Pew Research Center. Of those, at least 2 million are so-called “Dreamers” who were brought to the U.S. as minors after the current cutoff date and are currently between the ages of 12 and 35.
Moving the cutoff date “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,” Padilla said of the bill co-sponsored by Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; Ray Lujan, D-N.M.; and Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
The reintroduction of Senate Bill 2606 comes four months after a group of Democrats pushed a similar initiative to update the cutoff date in the House of Representatives.
Efforts to update immigration law in the United States have not been successful despite multiple attempts. Most recently, the House considered the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021 to create a path to legal status for some undocumented farm workers and the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 to provide undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as minors protection from deportation and a chance to obtain permanent legal status.
Both bills failed in the Senate.
In May, the country’s Title 42 policy to turn away most people at the border during the pandemic expired, imposing new rules for asylum seekers. While arrests at the southern border have declined 70% since Title 42’s end, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it encountered 144,607 individuals at the border in June.