The Dignity Act of 2023 is bill proposed in May 2023 by Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL) and Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX). This bill has not been passed and is not law as of December 31, 2023. This is a bipartisan bill, meaning it has support from both Democrats and Republicans. Usually, this means the bill has a higher chance of passing, but it does not guarantee it. The bill attempts comprehensive immigration reform that hopes to address major issues, such as border security, legal immigration, and undocumented people living in the United States. This blog is not a complete overview of the bill but will give information on the major points that would be important to our clients.
The Dignity Act hopes to change the asylum process by having asylum officers judge a claim at the border, within 60 days of entry. To do this, the bill’s writers have proposed a timeline of having asylum seekers heard within 60 days.
Days 1 – 15: After a 72-hour rest period, a person would receive a screening within 15 days to evaluate their background, including identity verification, have a medical screening, check for evidence of human trafficking, and then have an initial credible fear interview.
A Credible Fear Interview is like an asylum interview but it done much more quickly and is to determine if someone has a fear of returning to their country. At an Interview, an interviewe will not expect someone to provide evidence of their fear and will generally take what someone says at face value, unless there is reason to find the person is not truthful. If someone passes their Interview, they will then have an opportunity to have their case heard in full, with evidence. If they do not pass, they will be put into expedited removal.
Days 15 – 60: If someone passes their Credible Fear Interview, they will be interviewed by a USCIS Asylum Officer on their claim. An Asylum Officer must deny, approve or refer the case to an Immigration Judge. If an Asylum Officer denies asylum, the applicant will not have many options to appeal or re-heard; usually, a denial will result in expedited removal.
Referral to Immigration Judge: If an Asylum Officer refers an application, the applicant will usually be released from custody and issued a Notice to Appear in immigration court. ICE may place conditions on their release, such as with an ankle monitor or regular check-ins. After release, the applicant will continue with their case in immigration court as normal.
In-Country Application Processing in Latin America: The Dignity Act also provides interviews and applications to be processed in certain countries before coming to the United States. This would allow for applications on asylum, family reunification (for children under 21 whose parents have status in the US), and work visas to be heard without leaving your country.
2. Options for People Already in the United States – Dreamers, TPS, Dignity Program
Dreamers: “Dreamers” is a name for people who were brought into the United Statesas minors and lived here for most of their lives. This program would allow for these people
live and work in the United States legally as a “conditional permanent resident.” As a conditional permanent resident, they would have status valid for 10 years and be able to travel internationally, and work legally. To qualify for this, an applicant must have lived in the
U.S. continuously for at least three years, came into the U.S. when they were under 18 years of age, and graduated high school or being currently enrolled in secondary school. To remove the “conditional” basis of their green card, they can graduate with a college or graduate degree, be employed and work for at least four years, or serve at least three years in the U.S. military.
TPS: TPS or Temporary Protected Status allows for people from certain countries to live and work in the United States legally on a temporary basis. The Dignity Act has a section that would allow certain TPS holders (along with those granted Deferred Enforcement of Departure) to adjust to a Lawful Permanent Resident if they have (among other requirements) been continuously present in the U.S. for three years and were eligible for TPS on or before March 8, 2021.
Dignity Program: The Dignity Program is a proposed program to allow people in the
U.S. without documentation to gain legal status if they meet certain requirements and pay a restitution amount of $5,000. Generally, this program would establish a pathway to legal residence over seven years who people who have been undocumented in the U.S. for at least five years before the bill is enacted. They must pay all taxes owed, enroll in health care coverage (but cannot receive any federal welfare benefits). They must also be employed or enrolled in school for at least four years. Applicants will also need to check-in with DHS every two years and maintain good moral character.
These are only some of the provisions in the Dignity Act of 2023 that was proposed by two Representatives in Congress. This bill has not passed and is not law. This is meant to only be an overview of the parts of the bill that would be most beneficial to our clients.