The Dignity Act of 2023 is a comprehensive, bipartisan bill aimed at overhauling border security, infrastructure, offering legal status to undocumented immigrants in the United States, and instituting new pathways for economic migrants, asylum seekers, and unaccompanied minors. This article delves into each section of the bill, elucidating the benefits it offers and its potential impact on the future of immigration in the US.
Central to the Dignity Act is the augmentation of border security. It earmarks funds for infrastructure enhancements and advanced technology acquisitions, which includes secure communication systems and integrated surveillance systems.
The act ensures the bolstering of personnel numbers, with increased funding for training, retention incentives, and the addition of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents. The legislation also proposes investments in border communities, with the Shelter and Services Program set to continue providing vital services to arriving migrants.
The Dignity Act refines the concept of “Operational Control,” redefining it as “Operational Advantage.” This shift in definitions signals a more pragmatic and achievable approach to border security.
Ports of Entry Infrastructure:
The Act allocates $10 billion over five years to expand and modernize ports of entry, creating additional vehicle, cargo, and pedestrian inspection lanes. Moreover, it establishes the Immigration Infrastructure Fund to secure financing for infrastructure and personnel related to the newly created Dignity Program.
Legal Status for Undocumented Individuals:
Under the Dignity Act, the Dignity Program is established to grant legal status to undocumented individuals in the US. The program gives them work and travel authority, offering a possibility to bring approximately 11 million undocumented people out of the shadows.
Pathways to Citizenship:
The Dignity Act lays out multiple paths to citizenship. These include provisions under the Dream and Promise Act, the American Families United Act, and a Redemption Program, offering a path to citizenship for Dignity recipients who complete additional requirements.
In a significant move, the Dignity Act calls for the construction of regional processing centers in key Latin American countries. It also establishes Humanitarian Campuses in the US for the adjudication of asylum claims within a specific timeframe. Furthermore, it enhances family reunification efforts and offers a federal loan repayment program for lawyers serving at these campuses.
The Act introduces E-Verify through the Legal Workforce Act, mandating its use by businesses. The implementation of E-Verify will be synchronized with the grant of legal status to undocumented individuals to ensure a smooth transition without adversely affecting immigrant workers.
Addressing Visa Backlogs and Caps:
The Dignity Act tackles visa backlogs by cutting the waiting time to a maximum of 10 years. It also increases the per-country cap set in the Immigration Act of 1990 from 7% to 15%. Moreover, it protects children from aging out of visas due to processing delays, thus ensuring they receive visas they are eligible for.
Guest Visa Reform and Worker Visa Reform:
The Act improves visa security, mandates visa overstay reporting, creates a new visa for certain foreign visitors, and changes F student visas to have “dual intent.”
For worker visas, the H-2B Program is revamped to exempt returning workers from cap counts. The H-2A Program is expanded to cover both season and year-round agricultural employers. The H-4 Program now allows spouses of H-1B immigrants to be granted work authorization au