A bi-partisan bill – ‘The America’s Children Act’ introduced in the Senate by Alex Padilla (Democratic party) and Rand Paul (Republican party) seeks to protect documented dreamers from aging out of their legal immigration status when they turn 21.
Documented (or legal) dreamers are those children who were brought to the US when they were kids. Their parents entered the US legally on non-immigrant visas such as H-1B.
When these children age out (turn 21), they can no longer continue with their H-4 dependent visas. This often results in families splitting up. Aged out children either have to opt for an international student visa (which has its limitations such as higher fees and restricted work opportunities) or self-deport to their home country, such as India. Later, if they wish to join the work-force in US, they have to opt for the lottery-based H-1B or any other work visa.
As in the House version of the bill, the Senate version also provides a pathway to permanent residency to legal dreamers, who have maintained legal status in the US for ten years (including four years as a dependent), and have graduated from an institution of higher education.
The icing on the cake for children of Indian parents is that the bill locks in a child’s age on the date on which the green card was filed, thus mitigating the anguish, such as family separation, that the decades-long green card backlog entails. Under the provisions of this bill, a child who reaches 21 years while waiting for a green card, will not lose eligibility for the card under his or her parent’s application.
It also seeks to provide for work authorization for documented dreamers over the age of sixteen, whose green card applications are pending.
Of the estimated total of 2 lakh documented dreamers, nearly 70% are children from Indian families. The H-4 and L-2 visas, which are the visas issued to dependents of H-1B and L-1 workers (intra company transfer visa holders), are limited to dependent spouses and dependent children under 21 years of age. While H-1B and L-1 workers and their children can eventually obtain green cards, they often end up stuck in a decades-long backlog, which adversely impacts Indians families.
According to an earlier study done by David Bier, a research fellow at Cato Institute, as of April 2020, 1.36 lakh children from Indian families were caught in the EB2 and EB3 employment based green card category backlog, which had an estimated wait time of 84 years. Bier had pointed out that 62% of such children would age out without getting a green card.
“We cannot turn our backs on the ‘Documented Dreamers’ who have spent most of their lives in this country, contributing to their communities and our economy but face continued uncertainty and risk deportation once they turn 21,” Senator Padilla said. “These young people deserve the opportunity to pursue their American dream and continue building lives in the country they call home.” Senator Paul added that these children, shouldn’t be penalised by the government’s failures in addressing the green card backlogs.
This bill is co-sponsored by Senators Dick Durbin, Chris Coons and Susan Collins. Congresswoman Deborah Ross (NC-02) previously introduced this legislation in the House, which was covered by TOI.
‘Improve The Dream’ an association led by young immigrants who have grown up in the US, was one of the many voices advocating for such a legislation, has welcomed the development.
Responses on the Bill
Senator Rand Paul: “These children who have legally called the United States home for many years and even decades, are contributing members in our communities and to our economy. They shouldn’t be penalized by the government’s failures in addressing green card backlogs.” “The America’s Children Act provides targeted relief for these children of merit-based immigrants who are at risk of ‘aging out’ of their lawful immigration status, and I’m pleased to join Senator Padilla in introducing this bill.”
Senator Dick Durbin: “Children of long-term visa holders risk aging out and losing their immigration status as it is often tied to their parents’ status. These children unfairly lose their opportunity to secure lawful permanent residence and face the risk of deportation despite growing up in the US.” “I’m proud to cosponsor the America’s Children Act to provide these immigrants with the security they need so that they can continue to live fulfilling lives here in the US.”
Senator Chris Coons: “‘Documented Dreamers’ are Americans in every sense besides legal status, and Congress should protect them and provide a secure pathway to their citizenship.” “I am proud to come together with my colleagues to end the cruel and pointless practice of ‘aging out’ in our immigration laws, which deprives America of these individuals’ contributions and forces them to a country they may not even know. It is common sense measures like these that we can and must work together on to reform our broken immigration system.”
Senator Susan Collins: “Our legislation would protect ‘Documented Dreamers’ who were brought to the United States legally as children and know no other country as their home.” “It makes no sense that children of long-term legal immigrants, who have been raised and educated in America, can be forced to self-deport even as their parents and other family members are permitted to remain in this country. This would be a vast improvement to our legal immigration system and ensure the children of legal immigrants can continue to contribute to their communities and the economy.”
Congresswoman Deborah Ross: “My community in North Carolina is one of many across the country that has flourished because of immigrant workers, who spend years growing our economy and raising their children as Americans,” said Congresswoman Ross. “It is unconscionable that when these children, known as Documented Dreamers, reach the age of 21, they can be forced to self-deport to countries they might not even remember, splitting their families apart. I’m grateful to my colleagues Senators Padilla and Paul for joining me in leading this vital legislation to keep our nation strong and competitive by ensuring Documented Dreamers have access to the American Dream.”
Dip Patel, President of Improve the Dream: “Members of ‘Improve The Dream’ are extremely grateful for the Senate’s introduction of the America’s Children Act. This legislation puts in place a policy that most Americans assume already exists by permanently ending aging out and providing a mechanism for a pathway to citizenship for every child who has grown up in the United States with a documented status. For too long, young immigrants like us, who have been raised and educated here as Americans, have been forced to leave the country we call home. Over 200,000 Documented Dreamers who had felt hopeless now have hope for being recognized as something we have long felt: Americans. We are America’s Children and this bill will recognize us as such.”





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