Representative Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Florida) introduced this immigration bill in the House of Representatives on May 23, 2023. This bill was created by both Democrats and Republicans to address various aspects of immigration law in the United States. It addresses border security, border infrastructure, grants legal status to undocumented immigrants already living in the United States with the possibility of getting citizenship, establishes new pathways for asylum seekers, and creates new legal pathways for economic migrants and unaccompanied minors. Below is a summary of the bill.
Border Security: The bill would provide funds for upgrading technology and equipment used by the US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). This includes things like better communication systems, improved surveillance, and updated license plate readers. However, there won’t be any funding for restarting the construction of the border wall that was started by the Trump administration.
- The bill also aims to increase the number of border patrol agents and officers and improve training for them. It also supports the communities near the border by ensuring they have the resources to help migrants who arrive there.
Legal Status for Undocumented Individuals: This bill offers a path to legal status for undocumented people living in the US. It grants them legal status allowing them to stay in the country and work legally. To be a part of this program, they would need to pay a $5000 fee over the course of 7 years, pass a background check, pay any outstanding taxes, and continue paying taxes in the future.
- The bill also creates a special legal status for undocumented agricultural workers, allowing them to become permanent residents if they have worked in agriculture for a certain number of years.
Pathways to Citizenship: This bill includes pathways to citizenship for certain groups. It protects Dreamers, young people who came to the US as children, by offering them a chance to become citizens. It also helps keep families together by providing a pathway to citizenship for parents and children who are separated due to immigration issues. The bill also includes a redemption program that allows Dignity Program participants to apply for citizenship after completing additional requirements. Additionally, those who choose to serve in the military would have the option to pursue citizenship through their service.
Asylum Reform: The bill would establish regional processing centers in Latin American countries where potential asylum seekers or economic migrants can be pre-screened. If they are found eligible, they would be given a humanitarian visa to travel to the US for their asylum case to be heard. The bill also ensures that asylum seekers receive fair and timely assessments of their cases, with interviews and decisions occurring within specific timeframes, and will provide more resources for asylum officers and allows for secondary reviews of decisions.
- Asylum seekers would be given a credible fear interview within the first 15 days of arrival, but they would be given a 72-hour rest period to have the opportunity to consult with legal counsel. If the asylum seeker can show they have a credible fear of going back to their home country, then an asylum officer would have to decide on their case within 45 days. The asylum officer could refer the case to an immigration judge if it is too complex to decide on within the 45-day period. DHS would have to have no less than 500 asylum officers to determine asylum cases.
- An expanded reunification program would be implemented for minors, similar to the Central American Minors program (CAM), for children and young adults under 21 with a parent or guardian in the United States with legal immigration status, such as Dignity Status.
- Lawyers serving at Humanitarian campuses would be part of a new federal loan repayment program.
Addressing Visa Backlogs and Caps: The bill aims to reduce visa backlogs, which are long waiting times for people who want to come to the US legally. It creates a new position called the Immigration Agency Coordinator to oversee immigration functions and provides additional funding to improve visa processing. As an example, if a U.S. citizen wants to petition for a sibling, and the sibling was born in Mexico, it will take over 20 years for that sibling to be able to immigrate to the U.S. and get a green card with the current visa caps.
- The bill also raises the visa cap for each country, allowing more people from different countries to come to the US legally. It also ensures that children who are already in the US legally don’t miss out on getting the visas they are eligible for due to processing delays because they have aged out.
Guest Visa Reform:
- Visa Security: This bill would improve visa security by expanding ICE’s Visa Security Units to 75 places at high risk for security issues. They will also provide more training to border protection officers and establish a special unit to handle security-related requests.
- Visa Overstay Reporting: The Department of Homeland Security would have to provide a visa overstay report for the previous fiscal year to the appropriate Congressional Oversight Committees.
- New Visa for Certain Visitors: The Temporary Family Visitation Act will create a new visa that allows foreign visitors to come to the United States for up to 90 days. This visa is for people who have family members living in the United States who are legal permanent residents or U.S. citizens.
- F Visas/Student Visas: This visa would be changed to a “dual intent” visa, meaning that an F-1 student could have both the intention to study and stay in the United States.
- E-Verify would be implemented through the Legal Workforce Act and gradually phases in the required use of E-Verify for businesses.
Worker Visa Reform:
- H-2B Program: Workers who have been to the United States in the previous 3 fiscal years wouldn’t be counted against the limit of workers allowed.
- H-2A Program: The program that allows agricultural employers to hire temporary workers will be expanded to include both seasonal and year-round employers. It will cover more industries like dairy, forestry, aquaculture, fish or shellfish processing, and equine management.
- H-4 Program: The spouses of H-1B visa holders will automatically get permission to work when they receive their visa. They won’t need to go through a separate process of applying for their work permit card.
- Pilot Program for “Portable” H-2A Visa: A special pilot program will be created to allow certain agricultural workers to move between different employers more easily.
- Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents: These family members of green card holders would be exempt from the visa cap, so they would be treated like immediate relatives of U.S. citizens where there is no cap and visa waiting period.