A group of four top Democratic senators has introduced legislation to provide a much-needed pathway to a Green Card for up to 8 million people, including dreamers, H-1B and long-term visa holders.
Under the bill, an immigrant may qualify for lawful permanent resident status if they have lived in the US continuously for at least seven years.
The Renewing Immigration Provisions of the Immigration Act was introduced in the Senate by Senator Alex Padilla and co-sponsored by Senators Elizabeth Warren, Ben Ray Lujan, and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin on Wednesday.
“Our outdated immigration system is hurting countless people and holding back America’s economy. My bill would update the Registry cutoff date for the first time in more than 35 years so that more immigrants can apply for legal permanent residence,” said Padilla.
“This could have a profound impact on millions of immigrants, some who 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,” he said.
A Green Card, known officially as a Permanent Resident Card, is a document issued to immigrants to the US as evidence that the bearer has been granted the privilege of residing permanently.
The legislation would provide a much-needed pathway to a green card for up to 8 million people, including Dreamers, forcibly displaced citizens (TPS holders), children of long-term visa holders who face deportation, essential workers, and highly skilled members of the workforce such as H-1B visa holders who have been waiting years for a green card to become available, a statement said.
According to estimates by pro-immigration lobbying group FWD.us, if the undocumented individuals covered in this bill became citizens, they would contribute approximately USD 83 billion to the US economy annually and about USD 27 billion in taxes.
Companion legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren.
“For decades, immigrants who contribute significantly to our communities and our economy have been relegated to a legal limbo,” said Lofgren, Chair of the House Subcommittee on Immigration.
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“Updating this historically-bipartisan provision to provide lawful permanent resident status to immigrants who have been a part of our communities for years will make our immigration system fairer and our country stronger,” she said.
The lawmakers said 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 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 move has been welcomed by the Green Card aspirants living in the country.
“The only humanitarian and viable solution for us is a pathway to citizenship, which the Registry Bill seeks to offer. We demand that 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).
He has lived in this country for more than 30 years.
“We applaud the bold leadership of Senators Padilla, Lujan, Warren, and Durbin to move Congress to update the registry, an existing immigration law that has not been revised in over 35 years. An update of the registry will provide immigrants the ability to access permanent residency,” said Angelica Salas, CHIRLA executive director.