Friday, May 24, 2024

Thousands of Documented DREAMers Are at Risk of Deportation After Aging Out of Their Visas

More than 250,000 dependent visa holders in the U.S. are at risk of deportation after “aging out” of qualifying for lawful status under their parents’ visas. Thousands have already voluntarily left the country, while some have been able to stay under temporary visas.

Laurens Van Beek was born in the Netherlands but was raised in Iowa. His parents own a small jewelry shop and have renewable work visas. However, after his 21st birthday, just before his senior year at the University of Iowa, he no longer qualified as their dependent.

On Tuesday, Van Beek left his parents’ Iowa home with three full suitcases to board his first international flight in 17 years. He does not know if he will be able to return to the U.S.

“Everything that we did since coming to the U.S in 2005 has always been by the book. I definitely didn’t think it would be this difficult,” he expressed.

Last year, a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Rep. Deborah K. Ross (D-N.C.) introduced the America’s Children Act, establishing protections to prevent children raised in the U.S. from aging out of their visas. America’s Children Act provides a pathway to citizenship for them and lets people like Van Beek come back.

Documented DREAMers are among the few immigrant groups to receive bipartisan support at a time when immigration policy has become so politicized that any attempts at immigration reform are likely to fail. There has always been considerable support for immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, including those with protections under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.

However, when President Obama announced DACA in 2012, the original memo on the program did not specify whether people must lack lawful immigration status to qualify. For that reason, Van Beek and many in his position were not eligible.

The Dream and Promise Act of 2021, should it be passed by Congress, does include documented dreamers. Even so, it won’t fix the root cause of aging out. At least 104,000 young adults will age out of their parents’ visas over the next two decades, according to the CATO Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C.

“It’s not just about border politics. It’s also just about people: Kids and young adults like myself who grew up here from young ages are essentially American in every way but the piece of paper,” Van Beek lamented.

Los Angeles Times