Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Back to the Drawing Board on Immigration Reform, Dems Considering Updating Registry


Earlier this week, the U.S. Senate Parliamentarian rejected budget reconciliation as a way to secure immigration reform with a simple majority.  But Democrats have not thrown in the towel.  Some are considering a simple reform that long has been recommended -- updating relief known as registry.

Immigration and Nationality Act § 249 provides for registry, a record of admission for lawful permanent residence for undocumented persons who entered the United States prior to January 1, 1972.  That is a long time ago and the number of noncitizens eligible for it decreases as time passes.  The date was last updated in 1986 and commentators have long said that the time is overdue for moving the registry date forward.  Background materials on registry can be found here and here.

Marianne LeVine and Sarah Ferris for Politico report that Democrats and advocates are now floating the idea of  narrow immigration reform and a simple change to “registry.”   Some Democrats say simply updating that law with a more recent year, which would increase the number of immigrants eligible for relief from removal, could pass muster with the Senate parliamentarian.

The Politico story quotes two Democrats in Congress on the registry alternative.  

"The registry is one possibility," said Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), noting that the law hasn't been updated since the Reagan era. "We're looking at all different alternatives. We're not giving up."

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is quoted as saying that “We’re not changing the law which was the essence of her arguments that I read in her opinion,” he said. “We are just updating a date.”

The Chicago Sun Times editorial board in May 2021 wrote that "[i]f the registry’s cutoff date were updated to the year 2005, for example, about 5,650,000 immigrants — 51% of the undocumented population in the U.S. — would be eligible to adjust their status under the registry, according to the Migration Policy Institute." (emphasis added).


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