(OPINION) How updating an old Herbert Hoover law would offer new hope to undocumented immigrants

An untapped provision of U.S. immigration law could allow some 75 % of the undocumented immigrants now living in Illinois to establish lawful status while they seek citizenship, based solely on their long-standing — and law-abiding — presence in our country.

The law is nothing new. It was enacted back in 1929 and has been updated since. It needs only to be updated again, which we urge Congress to do, to bring greater order and humaneness to our nation’s immigration policies.

The Registry Act of 1929 allowed immigrants to apply for a green card, giving them lawful permanent residency, if they could provide evidence they had arrived in the U.S. before 1921 and were of “good moral character.” This put them on the road to citizenship, a status of “lawful” entry being a requirement for naturalization.

Congress has updated the Registry Act’s date-of-entry cutoff — the year in which the migrant must have arrived in the U.S. — three times since then, but unfortunately not in the last three decades.

Editorial Board, Chicago Sun-Times, May 11, 2021
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