Dignity Act Immigration

The Dignity Act

The Dignity Act

“Two members of Congress — one Democrat, one Republican — have decided to work on one of the most divisive topics in this country: Immigration. Who wants to do that? Very few people. But we’re doing it,” said Florida Republican Representative Maria Elvira Salazar on the topic of the new Dignity Act proposed on May 23, 2023.

The Dignity Act was proposed in collaboration between Republican representative Maria Elvira Salazar and Texas Democratic representative Veronica Escobar in a bipartisan attempt to provide an immigration reform bill that presents a more comprehensive approach to immigration issues. 

The bipartisan bill addresses concerns in regards to border security and pathways to citizenship for various undocumented individuals. The bill would be a 12-year, two part path that would require the U.S.- Mexico border to be considered “secure” in order to begin granting citizenship to anyone on the path to a legal status. 

The Dignity Act addresses various issues that are seen in the immigration system, such as:

  • The creation of new regional processing centers for asylum seekers
  • Provides legal status for undocumented immigrants living in the United States and a visible path towards citizenship
  • Provides new pathways to citizenship for economic migrants, as well as farmworkers, Temporary Protected Status recipients and Dreamers 
  • Alleviating visa backlogs and speeding up the application process, with 1.6 million cases currently incomplete

Border Security

The Dignity Act addresses the concern of border security, with the bill proposing the reinforcement of border infrastructure and security, attempting to allocate more funding towards the U.S. Custom and Border Patrol personnel and infrastructure. 

Although the reinforcement of border infrastructure is mentioned in the bill, official documentation by Escobar emphasizes that there will be “No funding for restarting construction of the Trump border wall or similar cross-border barrier projects.”

The bill does ask for the upgrade of technological infrastructure in the form of enhanced barriers, secure communication technology, surveillance systems, license plate readers, and biometric exit data systems.

Border security also takes into consideration the surrounding communities as well as ensuring the safety of immigrants that arrive in areas near the border. The bill also calls for the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that there are threat analysis reports done on both the Southern and Northern border, as well creating a strategic plan that fortifies Border Patrol systems. 

Another emphasis present in the bill’s approach to border security is seen in redefining the term of “Operational Control.” The term “Operational Control” came from the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which views Operational Control as “all unlawful U.S. entries, including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, instruments of terrorism, narcotics, and other contraband.” 

In the Dignity Act, the bill would propose the use of “Operational Advantage” that would be redefined “as the ability to detect, respond, and interdict border penetrations in areas deemed as high priority for threat potential or other national security objectives.” The term then becomes manageable, ensuring the protection of the country over threats rather than any breach in border control.

The bill also introduces the allocation of increased funding to ports of entry, in order to expand infrastructure, personnel and technology to ensure that they are able to be more effective and efficient. The bill calls for the allocation of $10 billion dollars to ensure that there is an allocation of funding, which would increase the inspection of cargo, vehicles and pedestrians. 

Visa Backlogs and Caps

The Dignity Act would also address the slow processing of Visa applications. Addressing the issues of backlogs would help accelerate the Visa application process, by ensuring that there is a maximum of 10 years for those who have been waiting for a legal visa. 

This means that any individuals who have been waiting for a legal visa, whether from family-based or employment-based sponsors, would ensure that they are being prioritized to receive a Visa. The Visa process would also ensure the allocation of funds towards departments that may be lacking the appropriate funding.

  • $2.56 billion towards the operations and support account to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
  • $852 million towards the Bureau of Consular Affairs and Visa Service in the U.S. Department of State
  • $225 million to the Office of Foreign Labor Certification in the U.S> Department of labor 

Protections for children who have Visas would also be fortified, by ensuring that children are protected from aging out of being able to receive certain visas due to delays that may occur during the process. At times children have aged out of certain requirements for the Visas that they apply for and are unable to receive the Visas they once qualified for. The bill also sets a protection for children who age out of eligibility, by ensuring that they still receive visas even if the delay of processing impacts their ability to receive one. 

Although the Dignity Act attempts to create a more inclusive route to provide immigrants with accessible access to citizenship, the cost of certain processes would fail to be inclusive to families that are unable to pay certain costs. The Macedonio family is an example of the act failing to take into account the economic status of many immigrants. The Macedonio family would be required to pay a total of $20,000 over ten years to complete the process for Rocio and her husband Isaias. “It’s simple: We are not rich. We don’t have savings. We live paycheck to paycheck,” said Rocio of the situation. 

 


Kimberly Gabriela Martinez | Board Member

Kimberly Martinez is an undergraduate student pursuing a double major in Political Science and Urban studies at the University of California, Irvine. She started her journey with Latina Republic as an Immigration Writer, highlighting the stories of the Latinx community in the United States and the various challenges they face, extending the outreach of her stories to cover immigrant communities of other regions around the world. Kimberly has also served as a tutor for Latina Republic’s Adelante Tutor Program, working with students of various grade levels that come from migrant families. Much of her work attempts to uplift the voices of those within the communities, which is something that Latina Republic has always emphasized throughout the various programs and stories they support. She hopes to continue uplifting the voices of migrant communities and finding more ways to address issues alongside those directly affected, whether it be through direct outreach or other channels of support.