Early in 2022, Republican members of the House of Representatives introduced the Dignity Act, a bill that purports to create a streamlined path to citizenship for undocumented U.S. immigrants, including "Dreamers" who were illegally brought into the country as small children and are not currently eligible for citizenship. It would also apply to immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for five years without facing criminal charges, and to TPS (Temporary Protected Status) holders—those whose native countries are experiencing "extraordinary and temporary conditions" such as armed conflict, natural disasters, or epidemics, and where a compulsory return would threaten their safety.
Several decades have passed since Congress enacted any significant immigration legislation. The Trump administration issued executive orders severely restricting entrance by non-citizens, the most notorious of which was the so-called Muslim Ban. President Biden repealed almost all of Trump's orders when he took office in January 2021.
Immigration Reform Efforts Have Stalled
Democratic efforts at immigration reform have repeatedly stalled, unable to attract a critical mass of support from Democrats or from any Republicans. In late 2021, Democrats sought to add immigration reform to the Build Back Better Act, including new rules that would provide some undocumented residents with work authorization and reduce backlogs for those who have already applied for green cards. However, negotiations came to an impasse, and the Act appears permanently stalled.
Highlights of The Dignity Act
The Dignity Act would require eligible immigrants to contribute $1,000 annually, over ten years, to a job-training fund for U.S. citizens. Once the ten years have passed, they would have to register with a five-year "Redemption Program," where they would be required to enroll in English and civics classes, participate in volunteer work, and pay an additional $7,500 restitution fee. At that point, they would be eligible for permanent residence and eventual citizenship.
Financial Requirements May Constrain Immigrant Participation
There is no way of knowing how many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants who live in the U.S. would be able to afford the 15-year process. In 2016, the Bread for the World Institute reported the median income for undocumented immigrants to be $36,000, $20,000 less than that of the U.S. population as a whole. Undocumented immigrants are ineligible for many U.S. safety-net programs, and many hesitate to apply for nutrition programs for which they are eligible such as WIC. As a result, most of their income tends to go toward life basics such as food and housing. This raises questions as to how many would be able to complete the program, or even enroll in it.
Right now, any discussion would be purely speculative: Not a single Democrat has signed on as a sponsor, and some House Republicans say the Dignity Act would unacceptably offer amnesty to law-breakers, so it is unlikely the Act will move forward.
Contact a Skilled Palm Beach Immigration Attorney
To schedule a consultation with experienced Palm Beach immigration attorney Jacqueline Delgado, call Delgado Law Group at (561) 342-1429 or schedule a consultation here.