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For more than a century, U.S. immigration law has recognized long-term residence as a primary factor in granting formal relief or protection. The rationale for regularizing the status of long-term residence is both clear and multifaceted. Over time, long-term residents in the United States build families, buy homes, and integrate into their communities. These equities, coupled with long-term residence, are reflected in the laws used to legalize and protect noncitizens. Many of these laws include a discretionary component, which is itself a powerful sword used by judges and officers when making immigration decisions.

This paper explores the history and role of long-term residence in immigration law and offers solutions for long-term residents in the United States without status or with short-term status vulnerable to expiration.