On March 9, 2023, US Representatives Zoe Lofgren (CA), Norma Torres (CA), Grace Meng (NY), Lou Correa (CA), Adriano Espaillat (NY), and Jesús “Chuy” García (IL) reintroduced the “Renewing Immigration Provisions of the Immigration Act of 1929,”. or “Registry Bill.” The bill, kept the same as last year’s Registry Bill, updates the 1929 law so that undocumented individuals may apply for legal permanent residency as long as they have lived in the country for at least seven years.
The registry, a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), has existed for nearly a century. It was first implemented by the Registry Act of 1929 and permitted immigrants who had been continuously present in the United States since June 3, 1921, were of “good moral character,” and were not otherwise deportable, to apply for permanent resident status. Since then, the cutoff date for the registry has been updated only four times, usually as part of comprehensive immigration reforms, but has not been updated since the Reagan era. The statute has also been modified in other ways.
Today, immigrant communities are pushing for the registry process to be updated by establishing a seven years presence eligibility in order to apply for a green card. Under the new bill, the 1929 Immigration Act would also incorporate a rolling component so that future legislation would not be required to update the registry, and undocumented people can apply after living in the US for seven years.
It is estimated that approximately eight million of the approximately eleven million undocumented people in the US will benefit under this new update of current law.
Nationally, the immigrant rights movement is divided on whether or not to prioritize continuing to push for “Immigration Reform” this year, in view of the Republican-dominated Congress. However, many immigrant rights organizations, especially those which have grassroots constituencies, believe that we must continue to organize around passage of just legalization policies. While legislation like the Registry Bill may not pass this year, it is important to continue to build community participation in the campaign, and to create
the political climate needed to push forward pro-undocumented legislation. Immigrant communities continue to organize, not to achieve a fast win, but rather, to continue to build support for a just law which will offer an ongoing path to citizenship, a permanent solution to the current injustice.
Currently, the national campaign “Unlock Permanent Residence Through Registry,” based with the Coalition For Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), is taking the lead coordinating the national campaign around the Registry Bill. Here in Sonoma County, organizations like ALMAS Libres/Raizes Collective and the North Bay Organizing Project (NBOP) are leading the Northern California Coalition For Just Immigration Reform, which involves organizations and unions in Sonoma, San Francisco, Humboldt, and the East Bay. Our local Coalition collaborates with CHIRLA, as well as other coalitions around the country, such as the Dignity Campaign and United 4 Immigration Reform.
The Northern California Coalition plans to hold regional community forums on the “Registry Bill,” and 40-mile Walk on May 1. We’ll join groups at a national level to hold marches on August 8 and participate in a General Work Strike on August 9.
Why do immigrant communities continue to passionately organize around a legalization bill, despite the betrayals by the Democrats and the continued anti-immigrant sentiment? Undocumented immigrants explain their involvement and sacrifice the best. They and their families continue to greatly suffer due to the lack of opportunities to adjust their legal status. Mothers and fathers are unable to see the children they were forced to leave behind in their home countries.
People suffer emotional distress by not seeing their elderly parents before they die. They continue to suffer exploitation at work and remain vulnerable if they complain about work conditions. And they suffer a constant fear that law enforcement will discover them and deport them, forcibly separating them from family and loved ones living with them here.
Last year, Congress had various legislative options at the table, including the Renewing Immigration Provisions of the Immigration Act of 1929 (introduced in both chambers), the Dream and Promise Act (passed out of the House), Dream Act (introduced
in the Senate), Farm Workforce Modernization Act (passed out of the House), Citizenship for Essential Workers (introduced in both chambers) and the US Citizenship Act (introduced in both chambers).
Immigrant communities overwhelmingly supported the bill related to the changing of the registry date, because it doesn’t include harmful policies like the expansion of temporary worker programs, more border and inland enforcement, and an increase in detention centers.
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Renee Saucedo is Coordinator of ALMAS Libres, of the Raizes Collective.