Two congresswomen, Rep. María Salazar and Rep. Veronica Escobar, introduced a bipartisan immigration bill known as “The Dignity Act.” This legislation outlines a 12-year, two-part path to legal status, with a prerequisite for securing the border before granting legal status to individuals on the path.
Key provisions of “The Dignity Act” include allowing undocumented individuals to work without the risk of deportation, expediting the asylum process, and establishing five “humanitarian campuses” to temporarily house asylum-seekers until their cases are decided. The bill also proposes implementing a pay deduction for individuals without permanent legal status to fund border infrastructure.
Rep. Salazar emphasized that “The Dignity Act” is distinct from the amnesty law signed in 1986 and incorporates stricter measures and higher penalties. The primary goal of the bill is to bring dignity to Border Patrol agents, support the business community in need of workers, and acknowledge the contributions of millions of individuals who often go unnoticed.
The proposed legislation comes shortly after the Biden administration ended the enforcement of Title 42, a health law imposed during the pandemic. While the number of asylum seekers at the border increased as a result, it was not as substantial as initially projected.
“The Dignity Act” incorporates specific provisions, including requiring Border Patrol to achieve a 90% detection and apprehension rate of individuals crossing the border illegally for one year before granting permanent legal status. It also introduces the “Dignity Program,” which provides work and deportation protection for individuals residing in the country for five years without legal status and no criminal record.
Additionally, the bill establishes a “dignity levy” of 1.5% withheld from the paycheck of participants in the “Dignity Program” and imposes a $5,000 fee. Successful completion of the program allows individuals to obtain “Dignity status” for an additional five years, which can be renewed indefinitely. Participants can further enter the Redemption program, where they engage in activities such as learning English, U.S. civics, community service, or paying an additional $5,000. Successful completion of the Redemption program grants legal permanent residency status.
Other provisions of “The Dignity Act” include expediting the asylum process to 60 days, providing immediate protected status and a streamlined path for “Dreamers” (individuals who arrived or came to the country as children), and those with Temporary Protected Status.
The proposed legislation offers a significant alternative to the House GOP bill, with potential implications for immigration reform.