The “register” is a reasonable workaround to legalize undocumented foreigners who have lived here for many years.


Democrats took a heavy blow when Senate MP Elizabeth MacDonough decided they could not include immigration provisions in their $ 3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill. According to MacDonough, the effect the immigration provisions would have on the budget would be ancillary to their overall political effect.

The rejected provisions would have allowed the legalization of undocumented immigrants who were brought here illegally as children, often referred to as “dreamers”; undocumented immigrants with temporary protection status; and essential undocumented workers. This would have made legal status available to over 8 million undocumented immigrants.

Senator Bob menendezRobert (Bob) MenendezBiden, don’t punish India Democrats reject harsh tactics against Senate MP Biden threatens new sanctions against Ethiopia and Eritrea over Tigray conflict MORE (DN.J.) says there is another option, which is to narrow the provisions of immigration reform so that Democrats can navigate the Byzantine rules of the Senate. He believes this can be done with an update to the provision of the register in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

The register is a process that allows undocumented immigrants to become lawful permanent residents (green card holders) on the basis of their long-standing presence in the country, regardless of their status or how they entered the country. the country.

I also don’t think updating the registry layout will be acceptable to MacDonough – it’s just another way to legalize undocumented immigrants.

But it might be possible to move an update of the register through the regular legislative process. The registration process has been in place for almost a century. It reflects our nation’s historic sense of fairness in allowing undocumented immigrants who have lived in the country for a very long time the opportunity to obtain legal status, and it has not been updated since 1986.


The provision relating to the register, established in 1929 by article 249 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), allows undocumented foreigners to establish a file of legal admission to permanent residence if they do not are not inadmissible under section 212 (a) (3) (E) (which prohibits those who participated in Nazi persecution, genocide or the commission of any act of torture or extrajudicial execution) or under section 212 (a) in so far as it concerns criminals, pimps and other immoral, subversive persons, violators of the laws on narcotics or trafficking in aliens, and the applicant –

  1. Entered the United States before January 1, 1972;
  2. Have their residence in the United States continuously since then;
  3. Have good character;
  4. are not ineligible for citizenship; and
  5. Not deportable under section 237 (a) (4) (B) [Terrorist activities].

Provision history

In 1911, Congress funded the Dillingham Commission to research the causes and impact of immigration in order to build support for significant restrictions on European immigration. The commission tried to establish “scientifically” that Eastern and Southern Europeans did not assimilate and that they degraded the quality of American society and civilization.

Six years later, Congress enacted the Immigration Act of 1917, which created a “no-go zone” stretching from the Middle East to Southeast Asia from which no one was allowed. to enter the United States. Its main restriction, however, was a literacy test that aimed to curb European immigration.

In this climate, many limitations were put in place, which led to the establishment of the first quota restrictions in 1921. Quota restrictions were designed to control immigration in order to change the racial makeup of the country. America. Many undocumented immigrants who had established links within their communities were caught in these restrictions.

The registry layout was established in 1929, to help these people. It converted their last established admission date to a “legal admission record” prior to the June 3, 1921 registration date. This gave them eight years or more of legal residence to meet the residency requirement for naturalization.

Indeed, the registry provision created a statute of limitations for the removal of a narrowly defined group.

The main rationale was that these immigrants were already embedded in our communities. Many of them had created families in the United States.

This is just as true today as it was then.

Choose a new registration date

Typically, the registry updates have changed the deadline to about 15 years before the date of passage of the new bill. Under this approach, an update to the registry in 2021 would extend the deadline to 2006. But that would make the registry accessible to around 6.2 million immigrants, which would represent 51% of the undocumented immigrant population in the United States. .

I don’t think Democrats can get Republicans’ cooperation on such a major legalization program without major concessions on border security and domestic enforcement of our immigration laws.

It was the “three-legged stool” approach that was the basis of the last bipartisan legalization program, which was established by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). The first step is increased border security; the second is a more domestic application and the third is the legalization program.

In fact, section 203 of the IRCA also extended the registration date from June 30, 1948 to its current date, which is January 1, 1972.

IRCA is an example of how much can be accomplished with bipartisan cooperation, but cooperation has not been easy.

Republican President Ronald Reagan observed during the signing ceremony that the IRCA was –

“The product of one of the longest and most difficult legislative undertakings in recent memory. It has truly been a bipartisan effort, with this administration and immigration reform allies in Congress from both parties working together to accomplish these critically important reforms. “

Fortunately, there is a lot of room for compromise on updating the registry provisions. The current date limits the registry to undocumented immigrants who have been here for 49 years. Republicans should be prepared to make that date more reasonable without demanding extreme border security or domestic enforcement measures.

Nolan Rappaport was seconded to the House Judiciary Committee as an expert in executive branch immigration law for three years. He then served as an Immigration Advisor for the Immigration, Border Security and Claims Subcommittee for four years. Prior to working on the Judicial Committee, he drafted decisions for the Immigration Appeals Board for 20 years. Follow his blog To

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