He, along with Sen. Rand Paul of the Republican Party, had introduced a bipartisan bill – “The America’s Children Act” to protect documented dreamers from aging their legal immigration status to age 21.
The hearing included the testimony of Athulya Rajakumar, a documented dreamer, born in India. She is a fresh graduate from the University of Texas at Austin.
Documented (or legal) dreamers are those children who were brought to the United States as children. Their parents entered the United States legally on nonimmigrant visas such as the H-1B. When these children age (reach the age of 21), they can no longer continue on their H-4 dependent visa.
Her heartbreaking story is one of many such stories that documented dreamers spill – of having to transition to an international student visa as they grow older – which means higher fees, restricted work opportunities and scholarships. limitations, fear of having to deport oneself, challenges in obtaining sponsorship for an H-1B visa if they wish to work in the United States, and being cut off from the green card.
The deep-rooted issue behind this is the national cap for green cards, which translates into a decades-long wait for the Indian diaspora waiting for an employment-based green card. According to an earlier study by David Bier, a researcher at the Cato Institute, in April 2020, 1.36 lakh children from Indian families were caught in the backlog of employment-based green card category EB2 and EB3, which had an estimated wait time of 84 years. Bier had pointed out that 62% of those children would grow old without getting a green card.
During the subcommittee hearing, Rajakumar, a member of Improve the Dream, a youth-led organization that advocates equity for documented dreamers over 2 lakh, said she was brought to the States United by her mother when she was four years old with her. six-year-old brother. Her mother left a violent marriage to give them a better life. After graduating from San Jose State University, she got a work visa and a full-time job.
In 2012, she applied for a green card for herself and her two children. A decade later, while still late, Rajakumar grew old. “My single mom worked hard to support me and my brother. Things were tough, but I still remember creating happy memories while building our new lives, like eating red, white, and blue popsicles on the 4th of July while driving, through neighborhoods to watch the Christmas lights. and watching my first baseball game at the national stadium. These quintessentially American experiences are not only unforgettable, but part of who I am today.
“I learned at an early age that every aspect of my life would be controlled by my status. I could not participate in the French exchange program at my high school, even if I was president of the French Club because I could not leave the country and guarantee my return. When I applied to colleges. I was considered an international student…” Rajakumar said.
The stress and anxiety these children face is immense. Rajakumar also shared the story of losing his brother, whose purpose was to be an immigration lawyer and speak on behalf of documented dreamers. Unfortunately, he committed suicide.
Self-expulsion is a heavy reality – “I can only describe this life as a mere existence. Not to live, but to survive. I am 23 years old. I should be excited about my goals, but I’m scared because I know they’ll be taken away from me by something I can’t control. She spoke of job offers withdrawn once employers learned of her visa status.
“Improve the Dream hopes that one day everyone who grows up in the United States can become American citizens and contribute fully to our country. Members of this subcommittee can make that a reality by passing America’s Children Act, a bipartisan bill, that would end aging forever and ensure that children like me who are raised and educated with documented status receive a clear opportunity to apply for permanent residency. This bill would create a reality that most Americans probably assume already exists,” she concluded.
Rajakumar also raised the issue of the root cause that needs to be addressed, the green card backlog and loopholes in the immigration system that do not provide a clear pathway to citizenship for long-term legal residents.
During the hearing, Senator Padilla secured a verbal commitment from ranking member John Cornyn and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin to work on legislation to rectify the circumstances documented dreamers like Rajakumar have had to do. face in the immigration process.