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Instead of talking about a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, what if policymakers talked about a path to dignity?

According to U.S. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, while some people should have an opportunity to eventually earn citizenship, what most undocumented immigrants need right now is the chance to come out of the shadows and live a dignified life.

They want to raise their American children, Rep. Salazar said at a recent LIBRE Initiative event, and buy homes, pay taxes, and continue contributing to the U.S. economy.

The Dignity Act presents a complete solution to a problem long neglected

Salazar met hundreds of undocumented immigrants during her time as a Univision reporter in Miami. As the network’s Central American bureau chief, she met hundreds of other people trying to make it to the United States.

On February 2022, Salazar introduced the Dignity Act, an immigration bill that provides a “complete” solution to a problem political professionals have long ignored.

Crafted over Salazar’s first year in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Dignity Act would:

  • Enhance security at the U.S.-Mexico border and replace obsolete and malfunctioning border technology
  • Disrupt smuggling tunnels and combat visa overstays with a visa exit system
  • Speed up the asylum adjudication process by adding capacity and staff
  • Allow employers to exempt returning workers from visa caps if they were employed by them in the previous 3 years
  • Make guest worker programs more accessible to employers by streamlining paperwork
  • Open temporary work visa programs to non-seasonal industries
  • Grant Dreamers conditional residency, pending a background check, if they arrived on or prior to July 4, 2016 and met other requirements
  • Pending a background check and the payment of a fine and back taxes, provide a one time, 18-month window for unauthorized agricultural workers who have worked in the United States for at least 180 days in the past two years to obtain Certified Agricultural Worker status. Those who maintain this status for eight years can then apply for residency.
  • Provide an opportunity, pending a background check and payment of a $2,000 fine, for people who arrived unlawfully on or prior to July 4, 2016, to take accountability and earn legal status, through enrollment in a rigorous, 10-year program that entails biannual ICE check-ins and further payments totaling $10,000.

Two decades without dignity

Dignity. People deserve certainty and the ability to plan their lives. Yet Congress has taken more than 20 years to address immigration.

The U.S. economy and the rule of law has suffered as a result. There are 11.4 million jobs ready to be filled in the United States. Salazar noted it would be impossible to send every undocumented immigrant back to his or her country of origin. Given the American demand for labor, it would also be unwise.

At The LIBRE Initiative event, Salazar said she needs “everyone” — Democrats, Republicans, progressives, and conservatives — to help get the Dignity Act through Congress.

“The system in the United States responds to the boss,” concluded Salazar. “And the boss are the people.”

Find out more about the DIGNITY Act, The LIBRE Initiative’s policy agenda, and how you can help forge a path to dignity for undocumented people contributing to the United States and reform our immigration system to meet America’s economic and security needs.