On February 18, 2021, more than a month from the inauguration of President-elect Biden, the U.S. Citizenship Act was introduced before the 117th Congress that proposes to establish a path to citizenship for certain undocumented individuals. More than 11 million unauthorized immigrants were hopeful and felt that finally an opportunity to legalize was on the horizon. But this bill remained at the Sub-Committee on Citizenship and Immigration without any positive development. There were attempts by Democrats to include provisions in the budget reconciliation package last year, but all were rejected by the Senate parliamentarian, and the overall plan remains in flux.
Fast forward to February 8, 2022, a freshman Republican Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Fla) introduced before the House the Dignity Act – an immigration bill that would allow millions of undocumented immigrants to receive legal protections and eventually a possible path to citizenship. Under this Act, undocumented immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for at least five years would be allowed to work legally while paying $1,000 annually into a new fund supporting job training for American workers.
After 10 years, the immigrants would be eligible for a 5-year “redemption program” requiring civics education and community service, and could be considered eligible for citizenship through existing procedures for naturalization. The DREAMERs and those in Temporary Protected Status will be able to adjust status to lawful permanent residency under this proposed bill.
While this may benefit unauthorized immigrants, there are controversial provisions that are included in the Dignity Act – it has tough enforcement provisions in terms of increasing border security. It includes making E-verify mandatory, ramping up the use of border protection technologies, hiring more personnel and restarting the construction of physical border barriers.
Interesting to note is that no Democrat had signed into this proposed legislation. It could be a starting point to open dialogue on these immigration issues again but with the controversial provisions, it may be facing opposition from the other party. Let’s see where this Dignity Act is headed, and hopefully, it is not just a political maneuvering but a good faith attempt to reach the much awaited immigration reform.