‘EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A Latina congresswoman from Florida has filed a bill offering to legalize migrants who have been in America for more than five years – in exchange for additional border security and mandating employers check workers’ eligibility.

The Dignity Act filed today by U.S. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Florida, seeks to modify immigration laws so that qualifying unauthorized migrants who have been in the United States for more than five years to get 10-year temporary residence permits followed by permanent residence after an additional five years’ stay. It also provides immediate legal status to “Dreamers” who were brought into the country as children and have either worked, served in the armed forces, or gone to college as adults.

“Our broken immigration system is fracturing America economically, morally, socially and politically,” Salazar said in a conference call on Tuesday. “I am introducing the Dignity Act to secure our border, provide a dignified solution to immigrants in the United States and support American workers. While we are a nation of laws, we are also a nation of second chances.”

U.S. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, (R-Florida, speaks during a news conference about immigration outside the U.S. Capitol on March 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Dignity Act also calls for the hiring of 3,000 additional border agents, 1,700 more immigration court staffers and increases criminal penalties for illegal border crossings

The plan differs substantially from the Democrats’ U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 supported by President Joe Biden but seeks the same end result: to bring order to America’s borders and stimulate the U.S. economy.

Biden a day into office proposed a path to citizenship to millions of unauthorized migrants already in the country and to many others protected from deportation by Temporary Protected Status visas and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The GOP bill does not offer an accelerated path to citizenship but instead calls for charging temporary residence applicants a $10,000 “restitution” feel. It requires them to learn English and perform community service if they want to earn permanent residence five years after that. Once they earn such status, they can apply for citizenship but would have to go to “the back of the line.”

And while the government already requires federal contractors to confirm their employees’ work eligibility through a secured web-based program called E-Verify that private employers are not required to use, the Dignity Act would expand its use.

Republicans supporting the bill – which Salazar first floated a year ago – saying it has the potential to end illegal immigration.

“Securing our borders and making humane reforms to our immigration system are not mutually exclusive,” said U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Michigan. “This bill offers real solutions for fixing our broken immigration system that will enhance our national security, reinvigorate our economy and enrich our society. There is room for both security and compassion in our immigration policies if we have the political will to find it.”

Ali Noorani, president and CEO of the National Immigration Forum, said it’s time for leaders of both parties to find a consensus on immigration.

“The introduction of the Dignity Act represents a decisive, constructive step toward immigration reforms that are long overdue. We are glad to see Republicans take this step and start a good-faith conversation around legal immigration pathways that are responsible and humane,” Noorani said in a statement.

He said the organization is looking forward to working with Salazar and her colleagues “to improve upon the initial bill” and help Congress negotiate a solution.

“We need Republicans and Democrats to build consensus on solutions that shore up our labor force and economy, offer certainty to all of us who depend on Dreamers and farm workers, and establish an orderly, humane process for migrants arriving at our borders,” he said. “An overwhelming majority of Americans support these solutions and want them now. Rep. Salazar’s bill is a welcome step forward.” 

But U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, said there’s already an immigration reform bill on the table that in addition addresses the root causes of migration.

“Last year, I introduced the Reimagining Processing Asylum Act. This legislation – written in consultation with immigration advocates and legal experts – would establish a humane asylum process that would put Border Patrol agents back at their posts and authorize appropriate agencies to process vulnerable populations,” she told Border Report.

The El Paso Democrat said Republicans “continue to serve anti-immigrant red meat” to their core voters that include a further militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border.

“It’s time to abandon these costly and ineffective policies and focus our efforts on addressing root causes and improving the legal systems and regulations to which we subject asylum seekers and immigrants,” Escobar said.