Lawmakers move to protect some ‘dreamers’ facing deportation

Immigration

(NewsNation) — Lawmakers are moving to add protections for certain documented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and graduated from a U.S. college, also known as “dreamers,” who face deportation after their 21st birthday.

If a dreamer is not a citizen by the time they’re 21, they forfeit their chance to obtain a green card, but because of backlogs up to 50 years long, parents of those children are struggling to renew the green cards.

The so-called dreamers came to the U.S. legally as children, received an American education, often speak only English and widely consider themselves Americans. But they still face deportation to countries with which they typically have little familiarity.

California Democrat Sen. Alex Padilla said in a news conference that turning 21 creates “an impossible choice” for these dreamers.

“Either to leave your family and self-deport to a country you barely remember, or to stay in the United States, living undocumented in the shadows,” Padilla said.

More than 200,000 documented dreamers face this conundrum.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said the U.S. needs these soon-to-be young professionals.

“Think about how many times we have been told we don’t have the workforce we need, we’re desperate to find people to fill the jobs,” Durbin said. “These are young people, educated in the United States, who grew up in this country believing it was their home and are really looking forward to a future in this country.”

That includes Milly Herrera, for whom the bill means the chance to apply for a green card.

“Aging out of the system at 21 means disrupting my path in higher education. It makes applying to colleges a lot more complicated and it makes my future a moving target,” Herrera said.

Immigration reform has historically had a tough time passing through Congress, but Democrats are hopeful this more narrow legislation can be successful.

The bill will allow children of aliens in the United States on a work visa, who have been in the U.S. legally for at least 10 years and graduated college, to apply for a green card.

Lawmakers from both parties, 27 Democrats and 10 Republicans, have signed onto the bill as co-sponsors in the House. The Senate version of the bill has four Democrats and three Republicans signed on as co-sponsors.

Both bills were introduced in 2021 and were subsequently referred to committees in their respective chambers. Neither bill has been reintroduced to the floor or voted on.

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