September 30, 2022

Warren joins Padilla to Introduce Legislation to Broaden Legal Pathway to Citizenship

Bill would provide a much-needed pathway to a green card for up to 8 million people, including Dreamers, TPS holders, and long-term visa holders

Text of Bill (PDF)

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) joined Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) to introduce legislation to expand a pathway to permanency for millions of long-term U.S. residents. The Renewing Immigration Provisions of the Immigration Act of 1929 would update the existing registry statute so that an immigrant may qualify for lawful permanent resident status if they have lived in the United States continuously for at least seven years before filing an application for lawful permanent resident status and are of good moral character. The bill isi also co-sponsored by Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

The legislation would provide a much-needed pathway to a green card for up to 8 million people, including Dreamers, forcibly displaced citizens (Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, holders), children of long-term visa holders who face deportation, essential workers, and highly skilled members of our workforce such as H-1B visa holders who have been waiting years for a green card to become available. estimates that if the undocumented individuals covered in this bill became citizens, they would contribute approximately $83 billion to the U.S. economy annually and about $27 billion in taxes. Companion legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.-19).

“Immigrants make crucial contributions to America, only to be met with a broken system that shuts the door on them,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren. “Expanding the registry pathway to citizenship for those who lived here for years and are part of our communities will provide them with the stability and opportunity they deserve.”

“Our outdated immigration system is hurting countless people and holding back America’s economy,” said Senator Alex Padilla. “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. 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.”

“For decades, immigrants who contribute significantly to our communities and our economy have been relegated to a legal limbo,” said Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, Chair of the House Subcommittee on Immigration. “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. I thank Senator Padilla for introducing this companion legislation in the Senate.”

“Our nation is filled with immigrants who contribute to our society and enrich communities across this country,” said Senator Ben Ray Luján. “For far too long, they’ve been forced to operate in limbo, slowing our economic growth and leaving countless lives in jeopardy. That’s why I’m proud to join my colleagues to introduce legislation that will provide a pathway to the millions of immigrants working in industries critical to our country’s success.”

“Our immigration system is deeply broken and has prevented many long-term U.S. residents from earning citizenship from the country they now call home. We cannot rely on outdated immigration laws to address modern day immigration,” said Senator Dick Durbin. “This legislation would allow immigrants to claim lawful permanent resident status after living in the U.S. for seven years and demonstrating good moral character. Updating the existing Registry statute would give immigrants, who have been working and contributing to our country for nearly a decade, a sense of certainty and stability that everyone deserves.”

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 Renewing Immigration Provisions of the Immigration Act of 1929 would:

  • Amend the existing registry statute by moving the eligibility cutoff date so that an immigrant may qualify for lawful permanent resident status if they have been in the U.S. for at least seven years before filing an application under registry.
  • Preempt the need for further congressional action by making the eligibility cutoff rolling, instead of tying it to a specific date, as it is now.

“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. “With DACA on life support, TPS under constant threat and millions still living without legal status for decades, we urge Congress to update the registry now,  and to do so with a strong bipartisan vote, as was the case with the last four previous updates since its inception in 1929.”

“With the DACA program in jeopardy, my future is uncertain and I continue to live in fear in the only country that I have known as my home. DACA could be taken away at any moment, and we’re not talking about a single document, we’re talking about human lives,” said Francisco, CHIRLA member and DACA recipient. “Instead of dead ends, Congress can establish a permanent pathway through an update to the registry! My family and I have waited for too long, and we urge Congress to provide a solution so that we don’t continue living off of the promises of others.”

“I am a TPS holder from Nepal who has lived in this country for more than 30 years. For more than half my life, in pursuit of my American dream. I have struggled, worked hard through many odd jobs, acquired college degrees, and built my life and family in this country. Thanks to the protection provided by TPS, I have been finally able to live and work legally in this country for the past seven years. This country has become my home. However, hundreds of thousands of TPS holders like myself are forced to live in constant fear and anxiety of not knowing if our right to live and work in this country will be taken away from us at any moment because TPS is temporary. Despite our commitment to do well for our families and communities here, we have been treated unfairly for years by having been denied any permanency. The only humanitarian and viable solution for us is a pathway to citizenship, which the Registry Bill seeks to offer. We demand that the Congress act and do the right thing. Pass the Registry Bill.” Anil Shahi, TPS Holder from Nepal & Organizer with Adhikaar & Communities United for Status & Protection (CUSP).

“When asylum seekers are being treated as tools for political stunts – and when DACA recipients and their families must wait in limbo yet again for a decision about our futures – Congress has a choice to make: they are either for immigrants or against immigrants. If they are with us, the answer is clear,” said Esther Jeon, DACA recipient and community member with the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium (NAKASEC). “They must update the registry date and give our communities permanent residency. It is the ethical minimum Congress can offer Anything less is insufficient.”

Senator Warren has long fought for an accessible, inclusive pathway to citizenship.

  • In April 2021, Senators Warren and Padilla, along with Representatives Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) and Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), led the introduction of the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act (S.747), which would provide a fair, secure, and accessible pathway to U.S. citizenship for over 5 million immigrant essential workers.
  • The lawmakers later led a bicameral letter to President Biden urging the inclusion of the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act in the President’s infrastructure package.
  • In February 2021, Senator Warren joined Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Representative Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) in introducing the bicameral U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 (S.348)—President Biden’s bold, inclusive, and humane framework for the future of the United States immigration system.