Washington: Running from pillar to post for the last several years, ‘documented dreamers’, a significantly large number of whom are Indian Americans, are seeking an end to their uncertain future.
A group of these long-term visa holders known as documented dreamers made another round of the US Capitol – the temple of American Democracy – knocking on the doors of one lawmaker after the other, seeking support for the recently introduced ‘America’s Children Act’.
The ‘dreamers’ are basically undocumented immigrants who enter the United States as children with parents. They grew up legally in the US but risk deportation when they turn 21 years old.
At a time when the US Congress is bitterly divided on political lines, these young dreamers, who are estimated to number 250,000 are looking for more support from congressmen and senators to make necessary legislative changes that give citizenship pathway to aged-out kids.
“It is time to permanently end the aging out and pass the America’s Children Act,” Dip Patel, founder, Improve The Dream, said.
He is leading an unprecedented fight on behalf of the documented dreamers.
Of the 2,50,000 dreamers, 90 per cent are pursuing STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers, he said.
“In 2005, my parents immigrated to the United States to start a small business to give our family the best opportunity to succeed. We made America our home,” Patel told reporters at the Capitol.
“This country raised me, educated me, and has made me who I am today. After nearly two decades of living here lawfully, my parents and I have not yet received permanent resident status. This resonates with everyone standing with me today,” he said, adding that a loophole in the system is forcing young people brought here legally to leave the country after they turn 21.
Muhil Ravichandran, 24, who first came to the United States at the age of two, said she would now have to self-deport from the country that she had been calling home for almost two decades.
“This means having to leave my family because they have already received their green cards. It is heartbreaking that I have to spend every day in fear that I may have to leave my home, simply because I aged out,” she rued.
“Due to the Green Card backlog, I had aged out by the time my parents finally received their green cards. My future is now uncertain,” she added.
Laurens van Beek moved to the United States when he was 7-years-old with his parents.
“I have been coming to Iowa since I was small. My family has had a very close relationship with the United States, specifically Iowa, since the World War II,” he said.
“In July 2022, after more than 17 years, I had to leave the United States, my family, friends, and coworkers. I moved to Belgium in order to keep working for IDT in their European facility after three failed attempts at the H-1B lottery. I do not know when or if I will be able to return to a life in the United States or be stuck as a tourist in order to see my parents,” Beek said.
Merry Joseph, a third-year medical student at the University of Utah’s Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine, moved to Utah from Singapore when she was 10-years-old with her family due to her father’s job transfer.
“Halfway through my junior year in college, when I turned 21, I aged out of my family’s green card application and subsequently the dependent visa that was allowing me to live in the US. Being stuck in this immigration limbo definitely took a toll on my mental health. Despite all the stress and uncertainty I faced, I did not give up on my dream to serve as a physician in this country,” she said.
“I went through the intense process of switching to an international student visa just so I could finish my bachelor’s degree and continued to work hard, believing that if all that I could do to serve my country, then maybe I would eventually get to call the United States my permanent home!” she said.
According to Patel, four years ago, son of a dairy farmer was forced to self deport after spending over 19 years in the country.
Two years ago, a nursing graduate was forced to leave the US after having grown up and lived here for 17 years with lawful status, despite the Covid-19 pandemic and shortage of nursing staff in the country, he said.
“This year, 10,000 more will face the same fate. This does not make sense. For us, our family is our country. And that is why we need America’s Children Act, which will put in place a policy that most Americans assume is already a reality,” Patel said.
“Delay in solving this problem will not only fail people like us, but also fail America by depriving it of the contributions of the children it raised and educated,” he argued.
The current system forces documented dreamers to leave the US and return to their country of birth, robbing them of their future and livelihoods in America.
In 2022, the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that included age-out protections for dependent children on Green Card applications, as well as non-immigrant dependent children.