New York– A group of US lawmakers, including Indian-American Congressmen Raja Krishnamoorthi and Ami Bera, have reintroduced a bipartisan legislation to protect children of-long-term visa holders from aging out when they turn 21, forcing them to self-deport.
Congresswoman Deborah Ross and Senator Alex Padilla, who were accompanied by more than 40 such children — also called Documented Dreamers — announced the reintroduction of the America’s Children Act at a press conference on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
More than 250,000 children and young adults are living in the US as dependents of long-term non-immigrant visa holders, including H-1B, L-1, E-1, and E-2 workers.
“These young people are part of the fabric of our country, contributing to our economy and enriching our communities. It’s our moral duty to provide these young individuals with a pathway to permanent residency and a future free from the threat of having to leave the only country they know and love because of a broken immigration system,” Bera said.
These individuals grow up in the US, attend American schools, and graduate from American universities. Because they have maintained legal status, Documented Dreamers are not eligible for protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or the work authorisation that comes with it.
The DACA program was created to protect eligible young adults who were brought to the US as children from deportation and to provide them with work authorization for temporary, renewable period.
America’s Children Act bill will allow Documented Dreamers to obtain permanent residency if they were brought to the country as dependent children of workers admitted under employment visas, have maintained status in the US for 10 years (including eight years as dependents), and have graduated from an institution of higher education.
The bill would protect any child who has been in the country for an aggregate of eight years before the age of 21 as a dependent of an employment-based nonimmigrant by allowing them to remain a dependent on their parent’s non-immigrant visa until they can find another status.
It will also establish age-out protections that lock in a child’s age on the date on which their parents file for a green card, and provide work authorisation for individuals qualifying for age-out protection.
“These Documented Dreamers are Americans in every way except one: their parents’ green card is tied up in red tape,” said California Senator Padilla.
“This legislation is about more than just immigration reform — it’s about righting a moral wrong that’s a byproduct of our outdated immigration system,” he added.
Welcoming the move, Dip Patel, founder of Improve the Dream, an organisation supporting Documented Dreamers, said: “Fixing this loophole will ensure that America reaps the benefits of the contributions of the children it raised and educated.
“Ending aging-out will empower people to tap into their talents and ambitions, helping us and our country reach our fullest potential. And that won’t be possible if we continue to waste the product of our country’s investments, by forcing thousands of American-raised and educated children to leave every year.”
In 2022, the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) led by Congresswomen Ross that included age-out protections for dependent children on green card applications as well as non-immigrant dependent children.
In 2021, Representatives Ross, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Raja Krishnamoorthi and Young Kim first introduced the America’s Children Act in the House.
Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate by Senators Padilla and Rand Paul. (IANS)