The proposed bill to support Dreamers ignores young adults who entered the US legally as children, but are now ‘aging out’ or finishing college.
Talk about a Catch 22.
If you’re among the more than two million young adults living in America who were illegally brought into America as children and qualified for President Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, passage of the Dream and Promise Act of 2019 will ensure that you can remain in the United States and pursue a legal path to citizenship.
But if your parents brought you here legally as a child – typically on a non-immigrant E, H or L visa (which allow U.S. entry for adults in specialty occupations or professions, or for managers and executives from other countries who work for multinational corporations) – and you either age out or complete your college-level studies, you’re out of luck. You can’t stay.
No matter that you arrived in America legally. No matter that you’ve lived here most of your life. No matter that you feel fully and proudly American, because it’s the only country you’ve ever known. No matter.
Because of a yawningly huge loophole in legislation now being considered in Congress – legislation necessitated by Donald Trump’s careless and precipitous cancellation of Obama’s 2012 bill – kids who arrived in America legally, grew up here, studied here, and are ready to start careers here…can’t.
Once they reach age 21 or complete their post-high-school studies, these young adults must “self-deport” to countries they don’t remember, where they know few people, or no one at all. They’re not “Dreamers,” you see.
But their “Dreamer” friends who arrived without the protection of a visa, whose parents brought them over the border illegally…they’ll stay, and gain access to a path to citizenship if the bill passes and is signed into law by Trump.
That, folks, is just dumb.
Four Republican DACA bills in the last Congress – HR 1468, HR 6137, S. 2199 and S. 1937 – included these young adults in their “Dreamer” protections. But the current session’s Dream and Promise Act doesn’t.
Improve The Dream is a site just launched in support of young people who were brought to the United States as dependents of investors and skilled immigrants, primarily on E/H/L visas.
As two young men – both victims of this Catch 22 who wish to remain anonymous – shared, they’ve talked with legislators on both sides of the aisle. They’ve received sympathetic, even supportive, attention – but nothing is being done to resolve their dilemma.
One of them is now 23. He came to America as a nine-year-old on his parents’ non-immigrant E-2 Business Visa, which doesn’t offer a path to citizenship. When he completes his studies for a Doctor of Pharmacy degree in a few months, he’ll be forced to self-deport and return to a country he no longer knows.
While talking about the Dreamers, he told me, “I feel no different than them, and believe children who were brought to the United States legally should be considered Dreamers, too.”
The other is a few years older. He’s been in the States since 2002, and also arrived on his parents’ E-2 visa. He attended middle and high school, forged friendships that he hopes will last a lifetime, and was accepted to a prestigious private university in the Southeastern U.S., where he’s been studying since high school graduation.
This young man is now undertaking coursework for his third college degree. Why? Because once he stops attending his university, he’ll have to leave America.
“Despite my complete cultural assimilation, I could not be more detached from American citizenship,” he said. “Children brought here legally have a race against time to get their green cards before they turn 21, or they face significantly reducing their chances to stay…I lost that race, and when I turned 21, I had to become an international student overnight, as I was no longer allowed to fall under my parents’ visa.”
He then missed the utterly random shot at an H1B visa – offered by lottery to international students – which has forced him to stay in school while “fighting to remain home” in America.
Both the original DACA and this year’s Dream Act being offered by Democratic legislators “require one to be here unlawfully in order to qualify,” he explained.
He’s convinced the only reason for this systemic flaw is the fact that there are “too few of us to have our voices heard.”
Not that they haven’t tried.
These two young men have appealed personally to House Representatives Carlos Curbelo (who lost his seat in 2018), his replacement, Debbie Murcasel-Powell of Florida, Missouri’s Lacy Clay, Illinois’ Bill Foster, Arizona’s Raul Grijalva; and Senators Jeff Flake of Arizona (who left office in 2018), Illinois’ Dick Durbin, and Missouri’s Roy Blunt.
But, aside from Murcasel-Powell’s seeming willingness to try to “do something during markup” of the bill as a member of the House Immigration Subcommittee, their pleas seem to be falling on deaf ears.
So here’s my “ask,” Representatives Murcasel-Powell, Clay, Foster and Grijalva; and Senators Durbin and Blunt – and my own House Representative and U.S. Senators, Katie Hill, Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris: GET THIS DONE!
Add language to the 2019 Dream Act that delivers equal “Dreamer” status to these young adults.
You don’t even have to draft the language. Just look at those four bills drafted during the last session of Congress, pick the one whose language is the clearest, most precise and most comprehensive, and add it to the Dream Act in markup.
You have the power to end the limbo that thousands of young people – people who grew up in America, who love our country and want to become contributing adults – are now enduring.
Just do it.
Blogger Marcy Miroff Rothenberg writes most often on politics and women’s issues. Her new book – Ms. Nice Guy Lost – Here’s How Women Can Win– offers a comprehensive summary of the attacks waged on American women’s rights and opportunities by Trump and the GOP since 2016 – and a to-do list for fighting back. It’s available from store.bookbaby.comand at Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, and Goodreads.com.