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Florida’s María Elvira Salazar Once Called For a “Reasonable and Compassionate Approach” to Immigration. So Will She Vote for House GOP’s Cruel and Unworkable Bill?

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Florida Republican María Elvira Salazar last year introduced an immigration bill that her office touted as The Dignity Act. Introduced despite having zero chance of passing the chamber due to an anti-amnesty pledge that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has previously made to his base, the bill purported to enact a ten-year pathway “providing renewable legal status, and offers an additional optional redemption path to permanent legalization.”

While also full of GOP messaging like “build the wall,” Salazar’s office described the proposal as a “reasonable and compassionate approach” that “will finally fix an immigration system that has been broken for decades.” That’s true — no major immigration reform legislation has passed Congress and been signed into law since the Reagan administration.

Momentarily erase from your mind the fact that Salazar’s proposal contained a provision that made accessing the pathway to legalization within the bill just about impossible, something we immediately called out at the time. What Salazar wants you to focus on is that she believes she’s not empty-handed at the table, and that she’s putting forward a welcoming message that also addresses an immigration system that’s a generation behind the demands of our current needs.

“Our broken immigration system is fracturing America — economically, morally, socially, and politically. It’s threatening the American Dream and our very way of life,” she said, adding that while we’re “a nation of laws, we are also a nation of second chances.” It all sounds very nice, sure. But following McCarthy’s earlier pledge to racist outlet Breitbart vowing to block anything even remotely pro-immigrant should he become House Speaker, the Dignity Act was essentially dead on arrival.

What is going before Salazar today is H.R. 2. This nightmare of a bill guts asylum and increases child and family detention, going so far as to create a show-me-your-papers scenario for families seeking emergency shelter or other federal services during a natural disaster. It’s the sort of bill that noted white supremacist Stephen Miller would love — and we know that because the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a Tanton network hate group, has endorsed it. 

And, no surprise, the bill has the support of the worst anti-immigrant members of the House GOP caucus who regularly spew white nationalist conspiracy theories, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Paul Gosar, Lauren Boebert, and Chip Roy. They’re setting the House GOP caucus immigration agenda. The question now is whether Salazar’s going to enable them even more.

Salazar said last year that our immigration system is “fracturing America,” but H.R. 2 would break our asylum commitments under decades-old law. Salazar said that our broken system is “threatening the American Dream and our very way of life,” but H.R. 2 is threatening vulnerable unaccompanied children, who would stand to be stripped of critical protections under the proposal. Salazar said she seeks a “dignified solution to immigrants in the United States, and support American workers,” but H.R. 2 does none of that. The lack of a workable proposal means millions of undocumented immigrants continue to lack a way to become American on paper, while U.S.-born workers are missing out on increased wages and better job opportunities that would also result from the passage of comprehensive immigration reform.

If Salazar’s bill is the “Dignity Act,” then the current bill proposed by Republicans might as well be called the Indignity Act. And while the Dignity Act never got a vote, H.R. 2 will. Her campaign website has also touted that as “a journalist, she went toe-to-toe with Fidel Castro and called out Nicolás Maduro.” She’s now in a position where she can help vulnerable people fleeing those regimes. Actions speak louder than words, and how she votes this week will tell us whether or not she truly believes immigrants truly are worthy of dignity and protection from persecution, or if it was all talk to boost her reelection campaign in a competitive district. 

H.R. 2 also comes as members of her caucus continue to push white supremacist rhetoric in the days following at least one hate-driven attack that’s left innocent Americans dead. And in Florida, we’re already seeing the repercussions of anti-immigrant legislation even though S.B. 1718 was signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis only hours ago. “Construction workers say many employees have not showed up to work because they fear deportation,” CBS News reported. “Many workers are leaving, thinking they’re going to be deported, so they’re going to other states,” one worker, Jose, told the outlet. “Everyone is really uneasy…we just want to work to help our families.”

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal last year, Salazar also tried to make the case for why the Republican Party should be the natural home for Latino voters. But “Republicans like Rep. Salazar cannot have it both ways,” America’s Voice Political Director Zachary Mueller said at the time. “On one hand claiming they are welcoming to Hispanic voters and on the other echoing the language of domestic terrorists who murdered dozens to stop an so-called ‘Hispanic invasion.’”