“We’re a nation of immigrants, one generation after another bringing with us our heritage, our culture, our religions, our traditions – all woven together. That’s America’s strength, and that’s what this is about,” said Congressman Bera. “We’ve got to fix this flaw in our immigration system. We ought to welcome these kids to be part of that next generation to continue to move our country forward.”
A group of 40 youth members of Improve The Dream from all across the country came to the United States Capitol to advocate. Improve The Dream is a youth-led organisation, founded by Dip Patel, that advocates for children of legal immigrants who have grown up in the United States, but have no clear path to citizenship because they “age out” of the system at 21. They are often referred to as documented dreamers.
For the first time ever, over 20 young immigrants from Improve The Dream visited the White House last week and met with senior immigration administrators to discuss the issue of aging out and the green card backlog for affected youth. They were not only able to tell their stories to the executive office, but also to their legislators as well—the congresspersons that represent them. Through their advocacy, they met senators and representatives from Indiana, Florida, Iowa, and other states.
“Documented dreamers grow up in our communities, attend our schools, and learn alongside our children. They love our country and want to give back to the people and places that raised them,” said Congresswoman Ross, at a press conference with members of The Dream, held at the Capitol which is the seat of the US House of representatives. “These inspiring young people represent the very best of America. It’s been a privilege to work with them—and with my colleagues in the House and the Senate—to design bipartisan, bicameral legislation that will have a positive impact on so many promising lives. Let’s give documented dreamers the chance to stay in the country they love and call home.”
“Our broken immigration system is failing to meet America’s needs in the 21st century,” said Senator Padilla. “One major failure of the broken immigration system is the lack of protection for documented dreamers. For these young people who came lawfully, turning 21 means facing an impossible choice – either to leave your family and self-deport to a country that you may barely remember or to stay in the United States living undocumented and in the shadows. We will not give up because documented dreamers and millions of other immigrants deserve better.”
“These are young people educated in the United States, grew up in this country, and are looking forward to a future in this country,” said Senate judiciary committee chair Durbin. “But our immigration system is built on a premise that they are undocumented and undeserving of citizenship status. We want to change it with this bill. We want to say to them and so many more like them: we want you to be a part of America’s future. If your choice is to be part of the future of America, we welcome you. We need you.”
Dip Patel, founder of Improve the Dream, said that the organisation was started with the vision that all children who grow up in the United States should have a clear path to citizenship and passing America’s CHILDREN Act will end aging out and bring the vision to life. “Thank you, Congresswoman Deborah Ross for championing this cause for us, and Senator Padilla for leading it in the Senate. You have all given us a beacon of hope for achieving the American dream, and your dedicated support is the reason we have hope of one day being recognised as something we have long felt—being Americans.”
Over 200,000 children and young adults are living in the United States as dependents of long-term non-immigrant visa holders (including H-1B, L-1, E-1, and E-2 workers). 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) policy or the work authorisation that comes with it. Last July, Representatives Ross, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Raja Krishnamoorthi, and Andy Kim introduced bipartisan America’s CHILDREN Act in the House and companion legislation was introduced in the Senate by Senators Padilla and Rand Paul. If passed, the Bill would permanently end aging out and provide a pathway to permanent residency for these young people.