Bipartisan legislation introduced in US Congress to protect documented dreamers

·5-min read

Washington, Jul 2 (PTI) A group of US lawmakers has introduced a bipartisan bill that aims to provide a pathway to permanent residency to individuals brought to America as dependents of long-term nonimmigrant visa holders, a move which will benefit several Indian children and youngsters facing self-deportation when they turn 21.

The America’s CHILDREN Act was introduced in the House of Representatives by lawmakers Deborah Ross, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Raja Krishnamoorthi and Young Kim on Thursday.

The bill aims to protect Documented Dreamers, who are dependents of long-term nonimmigrant visa holders, from ageing out of the system when they turn 21, forcing them to self-deport.

The number of such documented dreamers is estimated to be over 200,000, a significant number of whom are Indians.

These documented dreamers are living in the United States as dependents of long-term nonimmigrant visa holders (including H-1B, L-1, E-1, and E-2 workers).

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.

These individuals grow up in the United States, attend American schools, and graduate from American universities. Because they have maintained legal status, Documented Dreamers are not eligible for protection under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or the work authorisation that comes with it.

“The children of long-term visa holders have grown up in the United States, embracing the American Dream as their own, but the current failures of our immigration system force them to leave before they have the chance to start their careers and families here,” said Indian-American Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat.

Congresswoman Ross, who is also a Democrat said 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.

“We must ensure that our immigration system protects those who come here legally and supports them as they work to contribute to and improve our country. When I met with University of Iowa student Pareen Mhatre, we discussed the importance of having young people like her in this country,” said Congresswoman Miller-Meeks, a Republican, said.

The legislation would protect individuals who are the children of long-term non-immigrant visa holders from ageing out of the visa system at the age of 21.

“These students grew up here, attended school here, and want to continue to make our country a better place. I am proud to support them,” she said.

The bill provides a pathway to permanent residency for individuals who were brought to the United States as dependent children of workers admitted under approved employer petitions, have maintained status in the United States for 10 years (including four years as a dependent), and have graduated from an institution of higher education.

It establishes age-out protections that lock in a child’s age on the date on which they file for a Green Card rather than the final action date and provides work authorisation for Documented Dreamers over the age of 16 whose green card applications are pending.

Documented dreamers, or children of long-term immigrant workers, came to our nation legally as children and have made positive contributions to our country. Unfortunately, their legal status is in limbo because at age 21 they must self-deport, despite only knowing this country as their home, said Congressman Young Kim.

Dip Patel, Founder of Improve the Dream said, that for the first time they have legislation that will permanently end ageing out and provide a mechanism for a pathway to citizenship for every child who grows up in the United States with a documented status.

Patel, a clinical pharmacist in Illinois, recently led a group of Indian youngsters from across America to the White House where they met senior Biden administration officials and influential lawmakers, appealing to them to “let us stay in the US”.

The group comprised youngsters who are facing the prospects of imminent deportation to the country of their origin as they have either attained the age of 21 or about to reach that age, after which they can no longer be dependent on their parents’ visas.

A significantly large number of these parents are in a decades’ long wait for a Green Card, a document issued to immigrants to the US as evidence that the bearer has been granted the privilege of residing permanently in the US.

“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 recognised as something we have long felt: Americans,” Patel said.

“We are America's children and this bill will recognise us as such. Thank you Congresswoman Deborah Ross for championing this cause. This legislation will improve the dream for all children of long-term visa holders and allow us to fully contribute our skills to this country. We urge Congress to pass America's CHILDREN Act swiftly,” Patel said.

According to Neil Makhija, Executive Director at IMPACT, a leading South Asian civic organisation, it gives hope to 200,000 Documented Dreamers who are American in every sense of the word except for a legal status that is unfair, unjust, and unwise.

“These are America’s children, and we must give them the path to citizenship that they deserve and that also will serve the country,” he said. PTI LKJ NSA AKJ NSA NSA

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