Farmer/Congressman Supports Dignity Act for Immigrants

DanAgri-Business, Labor and Immigration, Legislative, Regulation

dignity act

As a longtime farmer, John Duarte of California has paid close attention to immigration bills and now as a first-term congressman, he has the opportunity to support one. Congressman Duarte (R-CA) is a co-sponsor of the updated Dignity Act, which was recently reintroduced by a bipartisan group of representatives led by Reps. María Elvira Salazar (R-FL) and Veronica Escobar (D-TX)

“It’s a major bipartisan immigration bill, and it’s the first one in over a decade where it really starts as a bipartisan bill,” Duarte said. “We know that to get it across the line and actually bring the kind of change and progress that we need to immigration, we need both sides to be on board.”

Original cosponsors of the 2022 version include Reps. Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (R-PR), Hillary Scholten (D-MI), Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR), Kathy Manning (D-NC), Mike Lawler (R-NY), and Adriano Espaillat (D-NY). The bill consists of four core principles including stopping illegal immigration; providing a dignified solution for undocumented immigrants living in America; strengthening the American workforce and economy; and ensuring the United States remains prosperous and competitive in the future. Duarte says those principles are a winning combination.

“I really want to get back to where farmworkers can come across working work in California Food production, agriculture, packinghouses, and dairies, and go back home, oftentimes to Mexico for the winter and Christmas, which is usually a cultural tradition for a lot of Mexican field workers. And they come back in the spring and go back to work,” he said.

Duarte said current border policies combined with problems with Mexican cartels, the cost of traveling between the U.S. and Mexico, and the uncertainty of being able to return have left a lot of migrant workers stuck in California. Duarte says he agrees with the bill’s section on undocumented workers currently in the U.S.

“A section of this bill establishes a Dignity Program. It’s a practical solution for undocumented immigrants who’ve been with us for more than five years. It gives them a chance to work, to get right with the law, and to earn legal status,” Duarte explained. “I’m excited about that.”

In the Dignity Program, applicants must comply with all federal and state laws, pass a criminal background check, and pay outstanding taxes or debts. Participants will pay $5,000 in restitution during the seven years of the program, check in with DHS every two years, and remain in good public standing. In addition, individuals in the Dignity Program will not have access to federal means-tested benefits or entitlements.  The Dignity Program is seven years.

After completing the Dignity Program, participants can either maintain Dignity Status or go into the Redemption Program, which is an additional five years. Participants must learn English and U.S. civics and contribute to their local community, either by paying an additional $5,000 restitution or through community service. Through the Redemption Program, participants earn legal permanent resident status and eligibility for current pathways to citizenship. 

“I really believe that so many people who play important roles in our economy today who are undocumented and need to come out of the shadows. And start accumulating Social Security, accumulating Medicare benefits, paying taxes, and not working for cash in the gray market,” he said. “Really become a whole part of our economy and be able to raise the kids and buy homes and become full members of our communities.”

The Dignity Act was written in consultation with American business leaders, agriculture and farming industries, the faith-based community, immigration reform groups, and border security experts.

Listen to Sabrina Halvorson’s National Spotlight program here.

Farmer/Congressman Supports Dignity Act for Immigrants

Sabrina Halvorson
National Correspondent / AgNet Media, Inc.

Sabrina Halvorson is an award-winning journalist, broadcaster, and public speaker who specializes in agriculture. She primarily reports on legislative issues and hosts The AgNet News Hour and The AgNet Weekly podcast. Sabrina is a native of California’s agriculture-rich Central Valley.