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Florida Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar unveiled a new immigration bill Tuesday that would give undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship while requiring them to pay for border security and American worker retraining programs.
Salazar, a freshman GOP congresswoman from Miami, said “The Dignity Act” would end illegal immigration once and for all by securing the border and would allow millions of undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows in a dignified way to redemption.
“I’m a brown girl from the hood. I can do this because I do know my people and what they want and what my people want is dignity,” Salazar said Tuesday in a call with reporters announcing her major legislation. “They love the promised land and … this is the right thing to do for them and for the country.”
Salazar said her bill represents the first time a freshman member has proposed comprehensive immigration reforms on her own and without the help of a committee. She issued a challenge to immigration hardliners who have rejected any forms of reform under the guise of “amnesty” by saying “amnesty is what we have now.“
“We have 11 million plus people using our roads, our schools, our hospitals for free,” Salazar said. “There is no accountability. Living for free with no consequences is a real amnesty.”
Under her legislation, so-called Dreamers who were brought to the United States illegally as children would have immediate legal status and a pathway to citizenship. The millions of other undocumented immigrants currently in the United States would be allowed to enroll in the “dignity” program that offers a 10-year temporary legal status, where they must pay $1,000 a year, pass a criminal background check and be barred from accessing federal benefits and entitlement programs.
Those funds – estimated to bring in $90 billion over the decade if 9 million people are enrolled– would be earmarked for U.S. worker job skills and retraining programs in an effort to address concerns that immigrants are displacing American workers.
The immigrants would also have to pay 2% of the paychecks to a new Immigration Infrastructure Fund that would be used to secure the southern border, with new border construction barriers, added technology and employing an additional 3,000 border agents.
The 2% levy on immigrant wages is estimated to bring in an estimated $45 billion to $90 billion dollars, assuming wages would range from an average of $25,000 to $50,000.
The legislation also would mandate E-verify nationwide to curb the employment of illegal workers, create tougher penalties for smugglers, create new processing centers at the border to hold immigrants while their cases are pending while the increasing the number of immigration judges and attorneys to expedite the backlog.
Salazar’s legislation has the support of fellow Republicans Dan Newhouse of Washington, John Curtis of Utah, Pete Sessions of Texas, Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon of Puerto Rico, Tom Reed of New York and Peter Meijer of Michigan.
She said Democrats have failed for decades to produce immigration reform. Republicans, she said, have an opportunity to welcome Latinos to the party.
“There’s a very big movement within the Republican Party understanding that this is the invitation letter for the Browns, the Hispanics, the Latinos – the largest minority in the country – welcoming them into the Republican Party because we know that we need them in order to continue improving the American economy,” Salazar said.
But with the current border crisis, which has seen more than 100,000 migrant encounters, and sometimes more than double that each month, some Republicans are cool to any idea of welcoming immigrants.
GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn, a freshman and member of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus, said he hasn’t seen Salazar’s legislation, but in general, is not supportive of a pathway to citizenship and believes it could be “dangerous” messaging to cartels to bring more people across the border.
“I believe we need the exact opposite,” Cawthorn told Fox News Digital. “We should be focusing on deportations and securing our border.”