Without action, Congress is failing immigrant children
Many Americans don’t know that a person can legally enter the United States, live there all their life, and be forced to leave America. To understand the problem faced by many young people who came to this country with their parents but are over the age of the US immigration system, I interviewed Dip Patelfounder of Improve the dream.
Stuart Anderson: Can you describe the problem that Improve The Dream hopes to solve?
Dip Patel: Most Americans assume that if someone has resided legally in America long enough, they can eventually apply for citizenship. It is far from true. Our current immigration laws allow children to be legally brought, raised, and educated in America, only to be deported once they turn 21. and retained its legal status. We have become known as the “Documented Dreamers” for indicating that it is possible for immigrant children to grow up without a clear path to citizenship, even if they have documented status.
Improve The Dream is a grassroots, youth-led organization that hopes to fix the flaws in our immigration laws that allow the system to “age”. We want to make sure that children who have been legally brought to the United States and are raised and educated here can stay and contribute to their full potential.
Anderson: What are the main causes of this problem?
patel: There are two main reasons. The first is the decades-long backlog of green cards affecting many visa holders, mainly from India. Since current law sets percentage quotas on the number of green cards issued to people born in each country in a given year, Indians on work visas are waiting in seemingly unrestricted immigrant backlogs. end. The crisis has reached a point where people brought with their parents to the United States as infants are still waiting 21 years later. Once the child reaches the age of 21, the child is no longer a minor and the legal status/protection they had under their parent’s visa expires, which kicks them out of the queue waiting for the green card and possibly the country.
The other way people get into this predicament is if their family arrived on a visa that allows long-term residency but has no clear path to applying for green cards. Some small business owners with E-2 visas can be here for decades without a path. Much like people aging in green card backlog, children of E-2 visa holders cannot rely on their family’s legal status once they turn 21. . One group is aging because the green card lines are too long, while the other group is aging because there was no line in the first place.
Anderson: It has been reported that around 200,000 people fall into this category. Can you give examples of people facing harm if the law does not change?
patel: Athulya Rajakumar, 23, a recent graduate of the University of Texas at Austin from India, came to the United States at the age of four as a dependent on her mother’s visa. Athulya grew up in Seattle, Washington, and now resides in Dallas, Texas. She completed her studies from the first year to her bachelor’s degree in the United States. Two years ago, when she turned 21, she passed her mother’s green card application age. In 8 months, she faces family separation and leaves the only country she knows after spending nearly 20 years here with documented status. (Two months ago, she testified on behalf of Improve The Dream before a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing. See Athulya’s testimonial here.)
Mily Herrera, 17, and Diego Herrera, 20, were brought to the United States from Mexico by their parents more than ten years ago to offer them a better future and escape violence and corruption in Mexico. Their parents moved here legally on E-2 visas, which allowed them to start a small business in Houston, Texas. When they reach the age of 21 or after completing their studies, they may be forced to leave the only country they know.
Pareen Mhatre was only four months old when her parents came to America from India. His parents attended the University of Iowa, where they are now employed full time. Even though Pareen has spent all but four months of her life in the United States while maintaining legal status, she risks being forced to leave after graduating as a biomedical engineer from the University of Iowa. Last year, Pareen Mhatre testified before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship.
Hilary Yoon came with her family from South Korea when she was only 10 months old. His family opened a cafe in Portland and have been an integral part of their community for over a decade. A few years ago, Hilary’s older brother and sister were forced to self-expelled after finishing school. Now 17, she hopes to enter the medical field but fears the same fate as her siblings. (See the video here.)
Anderson: What measures in Congress could solve the problem?
patel: After years of effort, our vision to end aging has been presented by Congresswoman Deborah Ross (D-NC) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA) in the House and Senators Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Rand Paul (R-KY) in the Senate. The bill has broad bipartisan support but has yet to pass Congress.
the American Children’s Act would create a process for individuals to apply for a green card if they were brought to the United States as children of visa holders, retained their legal status for 10 years, and graduated from college. It would also establish age protections that lock a child’s age on the date they apply for a green card, rather than the date the green card becomes available, which could be decades after the initial request. The bill would bring other reforms, such as allowing children to work (once they turn 16) of long-stay visa holders whose green card applications are pending. .
Other measures that would eliminate the limit by country or recover green cards would help some families receive green cards more quickly, which could prevent members of these families from aging.
Anderson: Are there any potential administrative measures that would be at least temporary relief for people who might be aging out of their immigration status?
patel: Although changes to administrative policies do not necessarily result in permanent changes, certain actions, ranging from changes to the policy manual to new regulations, can help reduce unnecessary aging.
In the old days, administrative reforms have ignored and excluded this population. For example, in 2012 the DACA program was announced, which allowed certain children brought into the country at a young age to be protected from deportation and permission to work. In theory, many people facing aging should be qualified. However, despite meeting the core qualifications, we were rendered ineligible as the DACA application required applicants to be undocumented.
Last November, we worked with Rep. Deborah Ross and Senator Alex Padilla, who led a bicameral DACA comment letter to the administration to request Documented Dreamers who had legal status for protection through DACA. Last summer, Rep. Deborah Ross and Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA) directed a letter to the administration asking for additional policy changes that might help some people.
Administrative changes that could help include:
– USCIS may use “filing dates” instead of “final action date” when determining green card eligibility for children.
– Allow adult children to keep their original priority date. Children who are derivative beneficiaries of family and employment-based petitions lose their priority date and are required to re-line because USCIS adopted a narrow interpretation of the Status Protection Act of 2002 of the child (CSPA) which makes it possible to “keep the priority date”. ” interpreting it as allowing retention only if a subsequent petition is filed by the original petitioner.
In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that this narrow interpretation is unnecessary and that the agency has the discretion to adopt the broader interpretation due to ambiguity in the law (U.S. Supreme Court in Scialabba versus Cuellar de Osorio). This may be amended by the Attorney General by reference Wang’s case and redecide it with a broader interpretation as described by the Supreme Court in its decision. A new ruling that allows children to keep their employment-based preference priority date would help many families stay together.
– USCIS may add another category to compelling circumstances that define “aging” as a compelling circumstance for children of visa holders raised in the United States. We hope that this definition of compelling circumstances can be as broad as possible to protect all children from aging, including those whose parents did not have a pending green card application.
Anderson: Do young people affected by the problem of “aging” want the chance to become Americans?
patel: The youth in our organization consider themselves Americans and want the opportunity to become permanent residents and then apply to become naturalized citizens.
Young people facing aging want to stay and contribute to our country, which we call home. Although we have had to face many obstacles, we also recognize the tremendous opportunities that the United States has given us.
If Congress and the President don’t address the problem of aging, the world’s top talent will overlook the opportunities America promises, knowing full well that it may be a bad choice for those with families. As increasing numbers of people leave America for countries with less burdensome immigration policies, some cite the aging of their children as the main reason. Last year, for example, the only intensive care physician in Mason City, Iowa, returned to India because of her daughter’s uncertain future in America.
If these policies are not changed, America is not only failing us, it is disappointing itself by depriving it of the contribution of the children it has helped to raise and educate. America has invested in our talents and our success, and the country should reap the rewards.