Bill Modernizing the U.S. Immigration System Introduced in House of Representatives

Michael T. Jackson, SHRM-CP - May 31 2023
Published in: Public Policy
| Updated May 31 2023
The Dignity Act would improve U.S. employment-based immigration system but faces a difficult path to passage in a sharply divided Congress. 

On 23 May, a bipartisan group of U.S. Representatives introduced the Dignity Act, a broad-ranging bill focused on modernizing the U.S. immigration system. Led by Representatives Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL) and Veronica Escobar (D-TX), the legislation proposes significant changes to the U.S. employment-based immigration system. As outlined by the bill sponsors, these include: 

  • Increasing the per-country green card cap from 7% to 15%. 
  • Reducing immigrant visa backlogs by issuing visas to individuals who have been in queue for 10 years or more based on their priority date. 
  • Excluding the counting of spouses and children toward visa caps established for employment-based immigrant visas. 
  • Automatically granting accompanying spouses of H-1B visa holders work authorization when they receive their H-4 visa. 
  • Permitting STEM-focused Ph.D. graduates from U.S. institutions the ability to remain and work in the United States via an O visa (extraordinary ability). 
  • Allowing for dual intent with the F visa (student). 
  • Protecting the children of visa holders legally present in the United States from aging out of eligibility due to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processing delays. 
  • Increasing available resources to USCIS, Department of State, and Department of Labor for improving the visa adjudication process and remedying delays. 
  • Establishing a new Immigration Agency Coordinator role designed to oversee immigration-related functions at USCIS, Department of State, and Department of Labor.  

In a statement, Worldwide ERC® President and CEO Lynn Shotwell said: “For U.S. employers, modernizing the employment-based immigration system to address the adjudication and visa access challenges that routinely impact their talent management strategies remains a critical priority. The Dignity Act is an important bipartisan step toward addressing many of these challenges. Worldwide ERC and our members are ready to work with the bill’s sponsors—Representatives Salazar, Escobar, González-Colón, Scholten, Chavez-DeRemer, Manning, and Lawler—and other stakeholders to enact solutions that support work from anywhere, are agile, and are attentive to employers and workers in order to advance talent mobility strategies.” 

Additional items in the Dignity Act include: 

  • Implementing a seven-year “Dignity Program” to allow participating undocumented immigrants the ability to receive employment authorization and work toward obtaining a renewable legal non-U.S. citizenship status. An additional optional program, the “Redemption Program,” would allow individuals to pursue existing pathways to U.S. citizenship after an additional five-year period. 
  • Providing protections for Dreamers/DACA recipients and a pathway toward full legal status. 
  • Allocating $25 billion for border security measures. 
  • Enhancing border security by directing the Department of Homeland Security to complete and implement biometric exits at all air, land, and sea ports of entry, and requiring electronic passport screening and biometric matching for foreign nationals entering the United States. 
  • Mandating U.S. employer usage of the E-Verify system to confirm employment eligibility for workers. 
  • Reforming the H-2B program by exempting returning workers from the visa caps of the previous three years, improving the application process, and requiring the Department of Labor to maintain a public online job registry. 

Despite having bipartisan co-sponsorship, the Dignity Act faces an uphill battle in Congress due to significant divisions in both the House and Senate related to immigration and border security. Worldwide ERC will continue to monitor and share any developments related to the Dignity Act. 

Michael T. Jackson is the vice president of member relations and operations at Worldwide ERC.