Two Democratic members of Congress have re-introduced a bill to grant U.S. permanent residency or “green cards” to the children of long-term visa holders who age out of their status.
Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla of California and Democratic Rep. Deborah Ross of North Carolina announced they were introducing the “America’s Children Act” in the Senate and House, respectively, on Wednesday. The act would allow the children of non-immigrants on temporary work visas admitted into the U.S. as dependents, termed “Documented Dreamers,” to apply for green cards without being subject to the annual caps on immigration by foreign nationals.
Padilla had previously introduced the bill in the 117th Congress, where it was co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Susan Collins of Maine. The bill’s introduction comes as immigration advocates have drawn attention to Dreamers who may spend most of their lives in the U.S. as children of work visa holders but must leave the U.S. once they turn 21, after which they “age out” of their visas — a process known as “self-deportation.”
“They are Americans in every respect except on paper,” said Ross at the announcement, adding that it would “protect these young people from leaving the only country they have ever known.” She claimed that there were over 250,000 such beneficiaries across the country “who were living in limbo.”
“Their parents’ green cards are caught up in red tape. It’s not their fault, and they were brought here legally,” said Padilla. “They face a choice that their [American] classmates could never imagine: do they self-deport and leave family, or stay in the U.S. and live in the shadows?”
The bill establishes certain limitations on who may receive permanent residency among Documented Dreamers, with the beneficiary required to have lived in the U.S. for at least ten years and attended an institution of higher education in the country.
— Improve The Dream (@ImproveTheDream) April 28, 2022
Though Padilla’s bill introduced in the last Congress never received a Senate vote, efforts were made to include it in other legislation, such as the National Defense Authorization Act and the Build Back Better Act, though they were unsuccessful. It is similar to the EAGLE Act, another piece of legislation that would grant permanent residency to non-immigrants waiting for green cards in long backlogs, but which failed to pass Congress over the objections of the Congressional Black Caucus, among others.
Opponents of the bill argue that it would overwhelm U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with more petitions to adjudicate despite large backlog of pending cases.
“‘Temporary’ should mean ‘temporary.’ Such temporary visa holders are not—and should not be—entitled to permanent relief,” wrote analysts for the Heritage Foundation when the proposal was considered in 2022, accusing Democrats of “emotionally charged” arguments.
Padilla, Ross, Graham and the White House did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s requests for comment.
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