New Bill Would Provide Pathway to Citizenship to 200,000 Children of Legal Non-Immigrant Workers

By GQ Pan
GQ Pan
GQ Pan
Reporter
September 16, 2021 Updated: September 16, 2021

A bill introduced Tuesday by Sens. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) would provide a pathway to citizenship to “Documented Dreamers,” or children of long-term non-immigrant visa holders legally residing in the United States.

The bill, dubbed “America’s Children Act,” would affect an estimated 200,000 children and young adults living in the United States as dependents of long-term non-immigrant visa holders, including workers on H-1B and L-1 visas. While those young people can eventually obtain permanent residency, they often end up stuck in a decades-long backlog and have to self-deport when they age out of dependent status at 21.

Meanwhile, the children of E-1 and E-2 visa holders have no pathway to obtaining a green card under current immigration provisions.

If passed as is, the bill would provide 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 would also establish 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 authorization for those aged above 16 whose green card applications are pending.

“We cannot turn our backs on the ‘Documented Dreamers’ who have spent most of their lives in this country, contributing to their communities and our economy but face continued uncertainty and risk deportation once they turn 21,” Padilla said in a press release.

This bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine). Rep. Deborah Ross (D-N.C.) previously introduced this legislation in the House.

The proposed legislation is likely to be welcomed by the Indian American community, as Indian nationals make up almost 70 percent of the Documented Dreamers population in 2020, according to think tank Cato Institute.

“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,” said Dip Patel, a Documented Dreamer and the president of the immigration advocacy group Improve the Dream. “Over 200,000 Documented Dreamers who had felt hopeless now have hope for being recognized as something we have long felt: Americans. We are America’s Children and this bill will recognize us as such.”

According to an analysis by the Cato Institute based on data released by The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the green card backlog for employment-based immigrants in 2020 has surpassed 1.2 million applicants—a new historical high. Applicants from India can expect to face a particularly long backlog of up to 89 years, with the likelihood that many thousands will die before they receive permanent residence.

GQ Pan
GQ Pan
Reporter