As the debt ceiling showdown moves toward the critical stages, a bipartisan House group has offered a path forward on another controversial issue: immigration.
Last Tuesday, a handful of Democrats and Republicans in the lower chamber announced they would introduce the Dignity Act, which The Washington Post described as “the most robust immigration proposal to date this Congress.”
Notably, the six main co-sponsors — three Republican, three Democrat — are Hispanic members of Congress who represent border states. The primary authors are Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., and Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas.
“We’re not each pursuing the perfect as we see it,” Rep. Salazar said. “We are pursuing a compromise that is real, that is common sense.”
As such, the legislation has something for everyone to hate. It includes beefed-up border security, anathema to progressives, and a pathway to legal status for those in the country illegally, a thorn for conservative border hawks.
Under the proposal, Congress would add more Border Patrol agents “as well as additional surveillance technology and border fencing,” The Wall Street Journal reported. At the same time, the bill would allow those who have been living in the United States illegally for at least five years to pay a $5,000 fine over seven years to gain protection against deportation. At that point, they could pay another $5,000 fine and gain permanent resident status or start the process of citizenship.
The bill also creates processing centers and “humanitarian campuses” for those awaiting adjudication of their status. Employers — including those in the agriculture business — would face stricter E-Verify requirements regarding their workers, the Journal notes. The Dignity Act would boost the number of visas and green cards available to meet demand and create a new year-round visa program for farmworkers — while also more quickly deporting those who aren’t granted asylum.
“Holding out for the perfect will make the situation worse,” Rep. Escobar said. “I have an ideal vision as well. But if I sit on my hands until I’m able to execute on that ideal vision, then the situation will only grow more and more challenging.”
GOP leaders have vowed not to take up immigration reform until passing a border security law. But all these issues are intertwined. There’s nothing politically compromising about House Republicans using the Dignity Act as a starting point for serious talks on this contention issue, showing voters that they’re willing to substantively address pressing problems even if nobody gets everything they want.
The Dignity Act deserves a fair hearing.