September 28, 2023
Representative, Texas' 16th Congressional District
María Elvira Salazar
Representative, Florida's 27th Congressional District
Evan H. Jenkins
Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
The last time the U.S. conducted comprehensive immigration reform was more than 37 years ago, and a lot has changed since then. The U.S.'s immigration and border policies have grown more complex, creating challenges that impact citizens and non-citizens alike.
During the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Common Grounds event, Democrat and Republican leaders joined the Chamber’s Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, Evan H. Jenkins, to discuss effective immigration reform practices. Together, they shared how they are fighting to improve this broken system.
The Future of U.S. Immigration with The Dignity Act
Veronica Escobar, a Democrat representing Texas' 16th Congressional District, and María Elvira Salazar, a Republican representing Florida's 27th Congressional District, worked together to draft a bipartisan bill to address the new reality on immigration. The Dignity Act of 2023 bill aims to modernize and secure the nation’s immigration and border processes in a smart and just way.
“The Dignity Act… means that… if you don't have papers or are undocumented, ... you could live a dignified life in the promised land,” Salazar said. “That does not mean that you have to go towards the path of citizenship, but while you are here, you will be living a good life and contributing to the economy of this country, being a good person, [and] not committing a crime.”
The bipartisan act, sparked by a lack of momentum for immigration reform in Congress, comes at a time of dire need for change in the U.S.
“The best way to manage a border is by recognizing that migration happens long before people get to the border and offering common sense solutions that way,” Escobar said.
The Dignity Act Calls for Border Modernization
The U.S. border lacks modernized systems — such as filtering technology that observes everything that comes into the country — leading to a lack of order. However, Salazar believes that the Dignity Act can change that.
“[With the Dignity Act], we solve the lack of … [workers], we end the asylum system gaming, and we know who's coming in,” Salazar said. “We're giving asylum to those who merit it, and those who do not. ... The fentanyl, we can stop, [and] we can improve the ports of entry with better technology, … [like] giant x-rays machines.”
According to Escobar, the Dignity Act is the most viable option presented in the last decade, offering a comprehensive look at challenges faced at the border and throughout communities nationwide.
“Not only will [the Dignity Act] address the undocumented population in the country,... change the way we operate at the border,... [by opening] legal pathways so that we're not stressing out the border, but … it creates in-country processing facilities so people don't … have to come to the border at all.”
Small Businesses and Individuals Can Help Make a Change
Small businesses aren’t immune to the impact of strict border policies. Businesses across the country are exhausted by the broken system and are calling for a change to aid in the nationwide worker shortage.
“Everyone is asking for help with our workforce,” Escobar said. “It's not just in El Paso. When I'm here in D.C., we get visited by corporations… [and] every single business group has implored that we do something … about building up our workforce.”
Salazar’s constituents in Miami have voiced similar concerns. “We need hands [in] construction, hospitality, [and] agricultural [industries],” Salazar said. “Those hands are here, but they're not legal.”
For local businesses and patrons looking to act, Salazar recommends doing three things:
- Call your representatives and share your support for the Dignity Act.
- Individually endorse the Dignity Act if you are a Legal Immigration and Border Enforcement Reform This Year (LIBERTY) campaign member.
- Write letters to local editors in support of the Dignity Act.
“We want the involvement,” Escobar said. “We want people at the table. We want to make this a bill that in its entirety can get across the finish line.”
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