The “Dignity Act” is Florida Republican Congresswoman Maria Elvira Salazar’s proposal for immigration reform unveiled in February. She claims it provides “a dignified solution for immigrants living in America,” offers a “second chance,” and keeps “the American Dream alive.” But it is “full of bad ideas” like “build-the-wall, gut asylum, and more border patrol,” according to the immigration group America’s Voice.
It is a response to the immigration proposals in the Democrats’ Build Back Better Act, which passed the House but not the Senate. Some consider Salazar’s bill DOA. In Florida’s purple 27th Congressional District, it is a stunt “designed for politics and optics” to “burnish her re-election chances, not a serious effort to pass legislation,” the immigration group concludes. Due to its disingenuous posturing, Salazar’s bill may “crash into an extreme anti-immigrant GOP” and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy’s “no amnesty” pledge, should he become House Leader.
Even if the odds are slim, the bill could become viable should the Republicans retake Congress in November. Now that campaigning for the mid-terms is revving up, we should examine just how lame the Dignity Act is and what it reveals about its sponsor.
Ms. Salazar says she has the interests of undocumented immigrants at heart, but her staff has not even translated the 484-page bill into Spanish, French, or Kreyòl, the native languages of most of its presumed beneficiaries, who certainly should understand its contents before taking the legislation at face value.
The bill does not guarantee residency or citizenship. It merely permits undocumented immigrants to legally work in the U.S. for 10 years, but only if they pay $10,000 on top of 2% of their wages. Furthermore, any immigrant beneficiary “shall not avail himself or herself of any Federal means-tested benefits or entitlement programs.” That is terribly harsh given surging inflation and looming recession.
Then at the end of a decade on “Dignity,” immigrants able to prove they entered the U.S. before Jul. 4, 2017 can sign up for the “Redemption Program,” which requires another five years and will cost them an additional $7,500 as well as 200 hours of community service.
Only at the end of “Redemption,” assuming they have paid their money, done their time, and not gotten into any trouble, the beneficiaries of “Dignity” and “Redemption” will be eligible – with no guarantee – for U.S. residency or citizenship.
They also must attend classes to learn English and civics, as well as a host of other burdensome requirements.
Salazar’s bill is “the height of cynical politics and opportunism.”
Immigrants who came after the 2017 deadline or who are not eligible for any other reason – say, a misdemeanor offense – have only two years to leave the U.S..
On top of all this, both the “Dignity” and “Redemption” programs have no travel guarantees if an immigrant has to leave the U.S. due to illness, death, or other emergency in their homeland.
In media interviews with Spanish-language programs, Salazar says that her bill’s beneficiaries are those cleaning hotels, working fields, caring for children, scrubbing bathrooms, and so forth. It appears, from her public statements, that she doesn’t see them rising to become professionals or entrepreneurs. Perhaps, if she did, her bills would offer guarantees for residency and citizenship.
This legislation aims at taxing already terrorized, marginalized, and impoverished working-class immigrants rather than offering them a leg-up and security.
Probably, we should expect nothing better from Salazar. She has proudly promoted a video in which she was warmly lauded by former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who is closely tied to that nation’s drug traffickers and most brutal right-wing death squads.
Hopefully, the Floridian voters whom Salazar aims to fool will see through this legislation’s deceptive title and packaging.