New Dignity Act Aims to Reform Immigration and H-2A

Josh McGillLabor, Legislative

Bipartisan members of Congress led by Representatives María Elvira Salazar of Florida and Veronica Escobar of Texas on May 23 introduced an updated version of the Dignity Act (H.R. 3599). The act would reform immigration laws and streamline the H-2A program for temporary foreign workers. 

Dignity Act

The bill would aim to stop illegal immigration, provide a dignified solution for undocumented immigrants living in America and strengthen the American workforce and economy, according to the sponsors.

“Our broken immigration system is frustrating Americans, causing people to suffer and fracturing our country — economically, morally, socially and politically. A solution is long overdue,” said Salazar.

“Decades of congressional inaction on immigration law has real consequences, and the humanitarian crisis unfolding before our eyes requires a bipartisan solution,” said Escobar. 

In March 2021, Salazar announced her vision for immigration reform in the Dignity Plan. Less than a year later, she introduced the first version of her Dignity Act. After consulting with members of both parties and a diverse group of interested stakeholders, Salazar and Escobar introduced this new version of the Dignity Act.

Among numerous other provisions, the act:

  • Provides $25 billion to fully secure the border
  • Mandates 100% nationwide E-Verify to ensure all American business are hiring legal workers
  • Constructs enhanced physical barriers and deploys the most up-to-date technology at the border
  • Hires thousands of new border patrol agents, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and border intelligence units
  • Expedites processing and ends catch-and-release policies
  • Creates immediate protected status and a streamlined path for Dreamers and Temporary Protected Status recipients, as outlined in the Dream and Promise Act.
  • Establishes the Dignity Program, a solution for undocumented immigrants who have been in the United States for more than five years. Recipients will be offered a chance to work, pay restitution, get right with the law and earn legal status.
  • Creates a new American Worker Fund, using restitution payments from the Dignity and Redemption Programs. This fund will provide workforce training, upskilling and education for unemployed American workers. For every participant in the Dignity Program, their restitution payments will be able to train or retrain at least one American worker.
  • Streamlines the H-2A application process by allowing employers to file with relevant agencies in a single platform, reducing the regulatory burden for farmers and businesses.
  • Creates a year-round agricultural workforce, removing seasonal requirements on the H-2A program and expanding it to year-round labor.
  • Repeals the complicated and unpredictable adverse effect wage rate formula to calculate wages for farmers set by the Department of Labor.

According to Salazar, no taxpayer funds will be used to pay for the Dignity Act. The border infrastructure, improved ports of entry infrastructure, new humanitarian campuses, increased personnel, and all other associated costs in this bill are paid for by an immigration infrastructure levy. A 1.5% levy will be deducted from the paychecks of individuals given work authorization under the Dignity Program.

See the bill’s full text.

Source: Congresswoman María Elvira Salazar

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