According to a Pew Research Center article, the latest statistics we have indicate there are about 10 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Of those two thirds, or six and a half million, have been in the United States for over 10 years. That is a lot of immigrants with nothing better to do than to live in the shadows, work under the table, and hope that one day, somehow, they will be able to emerge and enter the mainstream of American society. A group of House Democrats just introduced a bill, entitled the Renewing Immigration Provisions of the Immigration Act of 1929, that would allow such undocumented immigrants to apply for immigration papers after seven years in the country. The bill incorporates a rolling component so that future legislation would not be required to update what is called this “registry date.” It is estimated about eight million immigrants could benefit by the bill’s passage. What has not been adequately highlighted so far, however, is how the American immigration system and America as a country would also benefit from the passage of this legislation.
The Registry Act of 1929, the predecessor to this current bill, introduced the registry provision for the first time. Immigrants who had been continuously present in the country since June 3, 1921, who possessed “excellent moral character,” and who were not otherwise subject to deportation, were eligible to seek permanent resident status under that legislation. The deadline for registering has been moved up four times since then, usually as part of other significant immigration reforms. The requirement that applicants be immune from deportation was repealed by legislation that updated the registry date to 1940 in 1958. This modification made it possible for anyone who entered the country illegally, or overstayed their visa, to apply for a green card.