(NewsNation) — After years of failed attempts at reforming the nation’s border security and immigration system, two lawmakers introduced a new comprehensive immigration bill that may have the best chance of garnering serious bipartisan support of any similar measure in over a decade.
Reps. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) and Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Florida) partnered to create The Dignity Act of 2023, the details of which NewsNation obtained Tuesday.
The bill touches on border security and infrastructure, creates new pathways for asylum, and offers legal options for unaccompanied minors entering the United States. If passed, it would shift the nation’s goal from eliminating all unlawful border crossings to instead being better positioned to detect and interdict those that present a threat or national security concerns.
Notably, the bill creates the Dignity Program and a “Dignity” legal status, which would grant undocumented people in the U.S. legal status, work and travel authority. It also would grant them a permanently renewable legal status for as long as they meet the criteria, potentially impacting as many as 11 million undocumented people.
It lays out plans to fund border infrastructure and equipment that includes technology upgrades, research and task force development. However, it does not provide money to continue construction of former President Donald Trump’s wall project. The bill also invests in border communities by codifying the newly created Shelter and Services Program and funds and expands ports of entry.
Program participants would be required to pay $5,000 over the span of seven years. They must also pass a criminal background check, pay any outstanding taxes, and begin or continue paying taxes. Those who are eligible would also have to option to enlist in the U.S. Military as an avenue to pursue citizenship.
Other key points of the bill include:
- Funding for border infrastructure and equipment
- The development of a five-year technology investment plan
- Funding for additional CBP agents and officers, incentives for retaining the current workforce, and increased training
- $2.56 billion to the Operations and Support Account at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
- $852 million to the Bureau of Consular Affairs and Visa Service at the U.S. Department of State
- $225 million to the Office of Foreign Labor Certification at the U.S. Department of Labor
It would additionally establish regional processing centers in Latin American countries, where people could be pre-screened for asylum eligibility.
If found eligible for asylum, they would be issued a humanitarian visa that would allow them to travel to the U.S. to have their claim addressed.
Similar “humanitarian campuses” would exist within the U.S. and anyone found to have an eligible claim of credible fear would have their asylum case determined by an officer within 45 days.