Can Miami’s Republican congresswoman fix our broken immigration system? She’s giving it a try | Opinion

Offering creative and original solutions to closing one of the country’s biggest gaping wounds — its broken immigration system — has failed to gain traction in Congress for far too long, as both Republicans and Democrats who have attempted it can attest.

Just ask Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, and Democrat Bob Menendez of New Jersey. Each has jumped into the fray only to be whacked on the nose with a rolled newspaper by their own party.

But the issue is important and demands thoughtful, extended debate. It’s good to see that another lawmaker, Miami’s U.S. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, is pushing for a solution.

Migrants pay

On Tuesday, Salazar introduced an ambitious immigration-reform bill in Congress that she believes addresses “the core issues that for decades have kept the two main political parties apart on immigration reform.

Under her proposal, 12 million illegal immigrants could gain a path to citizenship, but it would cost them $10,000 for the privilege. It’s an ambitious proposal, helping the undocumented, including DREAMers, become legal, while at the same time allocating billions of dollars to increase border patrols. The immigrants themselves would pay for their own processing.

It’s an original idea — some might say improbable — to overhaul a frustrating and unfair system. As usual, the devil is in the details. But Salazar is in there, mixing it up and proposing the first bipartisan immigration bill introduced in Congress in 10 years. If nothing else, the conversation should not be quashed.

Here’s how Salazar summed it up to the Miami Herald: “We are fixing legal immigration (and) it won’t cost the taxpayer one cent. It will be fully paid by the people who are here and will be getting” into the pathway set out to legalize their status. “

Democratic co-sponsor

Salazar’s bill is being co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, who will be the co-lead, and it will be supported by Rep. Hillary Scholten, D-Michigan, Rep. Lori Chávez-DeRemer, R-Oregon, and Rep. Jenniffer González Colón, resident commissioner of Puerto Rico. That does spell bipartisanship, and it is welcomed.

Salazar, herself, has been on this path before, introducing similar legislation that went nowhere. The difference between her two bills is that the new proposal addresses the concerns of both parties. This bill would address immigrants who have been living illegally in the United States for more than five years, allowing them to come out of the shadows, with the exception of those who have committed a crime.

They would be granted residency and work permits to live here under a program called the “Dignity Status,” but they would have to pay $5,000 to be accepted. After seven years, immigrants would qualify for “Redemption Status,” which would lead to citizenship at a cost of another $5,000.

It’s an intriguing proposition. The criticism that U.S. taxpayers foot the bill for the undocumented immigrants would possibly die down, and maybe so would the hatred of undocumented immigrants — especially in Gov. DeSantis’ Florida — who, in theory, would be paying their own way.

It’s a long shot for Salazar & Co., but an overdue step that injects some compassion into this fraught issue.

It won’t be easy. It never is when it comes to immigration.