WASHINGTON – A freshman GOP lawmaker’s immigration bill might be a non-starter under a Democrat-controlled Congress. But if Republicans retake either chamber in November, Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar’s (R-Fla.) proposal could provide groundwork for increased border security discussions with leading GOP senators.

“I’ve met with her, and I’m impressed. Favorably impressed,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told Medill News Service. “I’ve been here a little longer than she has, but immigration has always proven to be one of those intractable issues.” 

Salazar’s proposed “Dignity Act,” part of a plan the congresswoman initially announced last year,  includes a pathway to legal status for many undocumented immigrants. Through a restitution program, immigrants would pay $10,000 over the course of 10 years in exchange for work authorizations and legal protections from deportation.

The bill indicates the restitution money would be used for a new American Worker Fund that would subsidize workforce education initiatives for American workers. The DREAM Act granting a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers is also included in this proposal, along with provisions that would re-start funding for physical border infrastructure and technology. 

“Until we stop the humanitarian crisis on the border now, where we’ve seen two million encounters over the last year, it’s going to be hard to do other things in that immigration area because I don’t think my constituents would stand for it,” the Texas Republican told Medill News Service. 

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) told Medill News Service he hadn’t yet seen the legislation introduced by his fellow Floridian. 

“When it gets to the Senate, I’ll look at it,” Scott told Medill News Service. “I clearly believe in border security. And I want to make sure we take care of the DACA kids.”

Fellow Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) declined to comment.

The first-term congresswoman beat incumbent Democrat Donna Shalala in 2020 in a rematch after losing to her in 2018.

Several prominent Republicans have co-sponsored the measure, including Reps. Pete Sessions of Texas; Tom Reed of New York and Peter Meijer of Michigan. 

“I think she’s got a lot of energy and a lot of good ideas. And I told her I’d like to work with her,” Cornyn told Medill News Service.