What is the Dignity Act of 2023?
Contributor: Van T. Doan
The Dignity Act of 2023 is a bipartisan bill that addressed a number of issues of concern to Americans, including border security and border infrastructure. Significantly, the bill also dealt with the issue of undocumented immigrants who are already in the United States. If it ultimately passes, it would create a possibility for currently undocumented immigrants to earn U.S. citizenship, as well as creating new legal pathways for asylum seekers, economic migrants, and unaccompanied minors.
The Dignity Program
One critical aspect of the Dignity Act of 2023 is the creation of the Dignity Program, which would establish the “Dignity” legal status. Dignity status would grant undocumented immigrants in the United States who comply with the program’s requirements renewable legal status, work authorization, and travel authority.
In order to participate in the Dignity Program, beneficiaries would be required to pay $5,000 over the course of the seven year program. In addition, they would need to pass a criminal background check, pay any outstanding taxes, and begin or continue paying taxes to the government.
The Dignity Act of 2023 would also create a path to citizenship for Dignity Program beneficiaries through the Redemption Program. At the end of the initial seven-year Dignity Program, beneficiaries who complied with program requirements would be eligible for this secondary, five-year Redemption Program. Upon the successful completion of that program, participants would be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.
While twelve years (the combined duration of the Dignity Program and the Redemption Program) might seem like a long time to wait for the opportunity to become a citizen, the reality is that otherwise, the undocumented immigrants who would benefit from the programs would otherwise have no path to citizenship. If the Dignity Act of 2023 became law, it is estimated that up to 11 million undocumented immigrants could come out of the shadows and be active contributors to American society while they waited to become citizens.
Legal Status for Certified Agricultural Workers
It’s not a secret that many undocumented immigrants in the United States are working as agricultural workers. In fact, many economists have said that without these workers, who often perform backbreaking work that others are unwilling to do, the American agricultural system could not function. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that 53% of American agricultural workers are undocumented immigrants.
The Dignity Act of 2023 would create a renewable legal status for these workers who are so essential to the U.S. economy. It would also create an opportunity for long-term agricultural workers to adjust their status and become lawful permanent residents (green card holders) after they have spent a given number of years working in an agricultural setting.
The Dignity Act of 2023 would also create asylum reforms through multiple measures. The Act would establish regional processing centers in multiple Latin American countries to provide services and pre-screening to potential asylum seekers or economic migrants. If individuals are found eligible for asylum, they would be issued a humanitarian visa which would authorize them to travel to the United States to have their claim adjudicated. Migrants would also have the opportunity to apply for H2A and H2B guest worker visas, and to determine their eligibility for other legal pathways to enter the United States.
In addition to the processing centers in Latin America, humanitarian campuses for asylum seekers would be established in the United States. At these campuses, there would be a screening process to conduct a Credible Fear Interview (CFI) to assess whether the individual meets the necessary criteria for “credible fear” to seek asylum. This interview would take place within 15 days after the migrant’s arrival in the United States, but not before a 72 hour rest period and the opportunity to speak with legal counsel about their situation.
If credible fear is established, an asylum seeker would have their case decided by an asylum officer within 45 days. If the case is too complex for the asylum officer to determine within that time frame, it could be referred to an immigration judge. The Act would direct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to have a minimum of 500 asylum officers across the various humanitarian campuses to decide cases. Lawyers serving at a humanitarian campus would be eligible for a special federal student loan repayment program. The Dignity Act of 2023 would also create an expanded family reunification program for minors.
Other Provisions of the Dignity Act of 2023
The Dignity Act of 2023 would also take measures to address visa backlogs and caps, implement the use of E-Verify (an internet-based system to verify employment eligibility), and reform guest visa and worker visa reform programs.
The Dignity Act of 2023 has not become law, but it could offer hope to millions if it were to take effect. To learn more about the Dignity Act of 2023, or to explore existing options if you are an undocumented immigrant, contact our law office to schedule a consultation.
Categories: Immigration Law