Late in 2021, Democrats in Congress attempted to pass immigration reforms as a part of the Build Back Better Act. This included proposals that would have provided many undocumented immigrants with parole and employment authorization and provisions to reduce the backlog for green cards. It would have also introduced an expedited process for receiving green cards for an extra fee. However, this Act never came to pass.
Maria Salazar, a Republican congresswoman, and six other co-sponsors have now introduced a new bill dubbed the Dignity Act, which provides its own set of immigration reforms. Like its former cousin, it would provide a legal framework for undocumented immigrants and certain reforms for the H-2A and H-2B visa programs. However, in return, it would also include significant reforms to secure the border and make E-Verify a mandatory process to gain employment nationwide.
Some of the most major provisions include providing a path to citizenship for Dreamers and holders of Temporary Permanent Status and providing undocumented workers that meet certain requirements a 10-year “Dignity Program” under which they may remain in the U.S.
Under this program, undocumented immigrants who meet the eligibility requirements for the program, which would require paying any back taxes and passing a criminal background check, may remain and work in the U.S. for a ten-year period. During this time, they must pay $1,000 annually, which will go to a job training fund for American workers.
After the 10-year program is complete, participants would be eligible to enter an additional five-year Redemption Program to provide a streamlined pathway to legal permanent residence and, potentially, citizenship. This program would require immigrants to learn English, U.S. Civics, and perform either 200 hours of community service or pay $2,500 every 20 months toward the “American Worker Fund.”
The Act would also provide funding for improving border security, including hiring 3,000 new DHS personnel and implementing new technology. In addition, new Regional Processing Centers would be built to house applicants for asylum, and 1,700 personnel would be hired to adjudicate the backlog of cases.
The Dignity Act has not received support from all Republicans, and many have expressed opposition. As a result, there is still significant doubt as to whether any of the immigration reforms it proposes will fare any better than its predecessor’s. As of now, it would require bipartisan support to stand any chance of passage by Congress.
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