In December 2021, Congressional Democrats tried to include immigration reforms in the Build Back Better Act (BBBA). Some of the proposals would have helped unauthorized immigrants by providing those eligible with parole and work authorization. The bill also would have reduced green card backlogs and provided some applicants with expedited green cards for a fee. But the BBBA has not come to pass.
Now, Republican congresswoman, Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.), along with other Republican sponsors, has introduced the Dignity Act as a “rebuttal” to the BBBA. In exchange for securing the border and making E-Verify mandatory, the Dignity Act proposes a solution for undocumented immigrants and reforms to the H-2A and H-2B temporary season worker visa programs.
Key provisions include:
- A streamlined path to citizenship for Dreamers and TPS holders.
- The Dignity Program itself gives other undocumented workers who meet eligibility requirements a chance to work in the United States for 10 years. This will require yearly payments of $1,000 to a job training fund for U.S. workers.
- After 10 years, Dignity Program participants can enter an optional five-year Redemption Program that would provide a pathway to legal permanent residence and eventual citizenship. Under the Redemption Program, immigrants would have to learn English and civics, participate in local volunteer work, and pay an additional $7,500 restitution fee.
- Expansion of the H-2A Agricultural Guest Worker program and support for the H-2B returning worker exception to help seasonal businesses fulfill their labor needs.
- Funding to secure the border physically, implement border security technologies, and hire 3,000 new DHS border security personnel.
- Establish Regional Processing Centers to house asylum applicants at the border and hire 1,700 new personnel to adjudicate asylum cases.
- Mandate E-Verify nationwide.
Congresswoman Salazar’s bill is not supported by all Republicans, some of whom see the provisions as unacceptable “amnesty.” Some Evangelical leaders support the pathway to citizenship for Dreamers just as they supported those provisions in the BBBA. There may be Democrats who find some of the Dignity Act palatable, but none have signed on as sponsors. There will need to be bipartisan support.
Jackson Lewis attorneys will provide updates on the progress of this bill as they become available.