WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, recently introduced the America’s Children Act along with Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). The bipartisan bill will provide a pathway to citizenship for “Documented Dreamers,” children of long-term visa holders who have been waiting for years, and often decades, for a green card. These Documented Dreamers face deportation if they age out of dependent status at 21 without a green card or other immigration status.
“‘Documented Dreamers’ are Americans in every sense besides legal status, and Congress should protect them and provide a secure pathway to their citizenship,” said Senator Coons. “I am proud to come together with my colleagues to end the cruel and pointless practice of ‘aging out’ in our immigration laws, which deprives America of these individuals’ contributions and forces them to a country they may not even know. It is commonsense measures like these that we can and must work together on to reform our broken immigration system.”
“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,” said Senator Padilla. “These young people deserve the opportunity to pursue their American dream and continue building lives in the country they call home.”
“These children who have legally called the United States home for many years and even decades, are contributing members in our communities and to our economy. They shouldn’t be penalized by the government’s failures in addressing green card backlogs,” said Dr. Paul. “The America’s Children Act provides targeted relief for these children of merit-based immigrants who are at risk of “aging out” of their lawful immigration status, and I’m pleased to join Sen. Padilla in introducing this bill.”
This bill is also cosponsored by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). U.S. Representative Deborah Ross (D-N.C.) previously introduced this legislation in the House.
“Children of long-term visa holders risk aging out and losing their immigration status as it is often tied to their parents’ status. These children unfairly lose their opportunity to secure lawful permanent residence and face the risk of deportation despite growing up in the U.S.," said Senator Durbin. “I’m proud to cosponsor the America’s Children Act to provide these immigrants with the security they need so that they can continue to live fulfilling lives here in the U.S.”
“Our legislation would protect ‘Documented Dreamers’ who were brought to the United States legally as children and know no other country as their home,” said Senator Collins. “It makes no sense that children of long-term legal immigrants, who have been raised and educated in America, can be forced to self-deport even as their parents and other family members are permitted to remain in this country. This would be a vast improvement to our legal immigration system and ensure the children of legal immigrants can continue to contribute to their communities and the economy.”
“My community in North Carolina is one of many across the country that has flourished because of immigrant workers, who spend years growing our economy and raising their children as Americans,” said Representative Ross. “It is unconscionable that when these children, known as Documented Dreamers, reach the age of 21, they can be forced to self-deport to countries they might not even remember, splitting their families apart. I’m grateful to my colleagues Senators Padilla and Paul for joining me in leading this vital legislation to keep our nation strong and competitive by ensuring Documented Dreamers have access to the American Dream.”
“Members of Improve The Dream are extremely grateful for the Senate's introduction of the America’s Children Act. This legislation puts in place a policy that most Americans assume already exists by permanently ending aging out and providing a mechanism for a pathway to citizenship for every child who has grown up in the United States with a documented status. 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. 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,” said Dip Patel, President of Improve The Dream. “Thank you Senators Padilla, Paul, Coons, Collins, and Durbin for championing this cause in the Senate. The America’s Children Act will improve the dream for all children of long-term visa holders and allow us to fully contribute our skills to this country.”
Over 200,000 children and young adults are living in the United States as dependents of long-term nonimmigrant visa holders (including H-1B, L-1, E-1, and E-2 workers). These young people grow up in the United States, but their dependent visas expire at age 21, forcing many of them to self-deport to countries they might not even remember.
The H-4 and L-2 visas, which are the visas issued to dependents of H-1B and L-1 workers, are limited to dependent spouses and dependent children under 21 years of age. While H-1B and L-1 workers and their children can eventually obtain green cards, they often end up stuck in a decades-long backlog. Meanwhile, the children of E-1 and E-2 visa holders have no pathway to permanent residency. If they are unable to change temporary status when they turn 21 and age out of their dependent visas, these young adults face the choice of remaining in the United States without status or returning to their country of birth alone.
The America’s Children Act:
• Provides 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;
• Establishes 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 Documented Dreamers over the age of 16 whose green card applications are pending.