WASHINGTON, D.C. (TIP): An Indian American documented dreamer has told lawmakers that she would be forced to leave the US, where she has spent her entire life since the age of four, in eight months in the absence of any meaningful legislative reforms in immigration system that addressed the major issue of aged-out kids.Dreamers are basically undocumented immigrants who enter the US as children with parents. There are nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants, including over half a million from India, according to a policy document issued by the Biden campaign in November 2020.
“Without a change in eight months, I will be forced to leave, not only my home of 20 years but also my mom who is my only family left,” Athulya Rajakumar, a 23-year-old recent graduate of the University of Texas at Austin from the Moody College of Communication, told members of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship and Border Safety on Tuesday, March 15. Testifying before the subcommittee during a hearing on “Removing Barriers to Legal Migration,” the Indian American told the Senators that over 5,000 documented dreamers face this every year. “Erin, a nursing graduate was forced to self-deport last summer in the midst of a pandemic…a data analyst student was forced to self-deport two months ago, Summer will be forced to self-deport in four months, even though her family has legally resided here since she was a baby,” she said. An aspiring journalist shared the story of her family’s struggle through years of immigration limbo, which contributed to her brother’s tragic death. “I’m outraged by this broken system that you, your brother, and thousands of documented dreamers have had to face. We organized this hearing today because we cannot allow the inaction of Congress to continue to cause this suffering,” Senator Alex Padilla said in his remarks.
Padilla is chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety. Barriers to legal migration routinely separate families across international borders for years, he said.
“Visa caps that keep employers from expanding their businesses and hold back the US economy, an arbitrary cut-off for legal status that forced children, visa holders, to leave the only country they’ve ever known when they age out of their parents’ visas. The gap between our country’s needs and the realities of our broken immigration system should come as no surprise,” Padilla said. “Employment-based visas allow participating immigrants to bring extraordinary skills to our workforce, start new businesses, create new jobs in rural areas, and to help address worker shortages in industries like healthcare,” he said.
“But only 1,40,000 of these individuals can obtain visas every year. Because the spouses and children who accompany them count against the total, far fewer than 70,000 visas actually go to eligible workers. Hundreds of thousands of others are left in limbo, restricted by a temporary visa, or turned away from their dreams and they’re kept from realizing their potential,” he said.
Ranking Member Senator John Cornyn said the Congressional Research Service recently estimated that without significant changes, the employment-based green card backlog could exceed 2 million by 2030.
“Indian nationals have been hit especially hard because our system’s per-country caps do not allow them to receive more than seven per cent of the available employment-based visas in any given year,” he said.
“To make matters worse due to processing inefficiencies attributable in part to USCIS’ paper-based system and to the closures of many of our consulates, we fail to issue as many as 92,000 employment-based visas in the height of the pandemic,” he said.
Rajakumar told lawmakers that she got a full-time offer from a major news corporation in Houston, a top 10 market, but the same company who saw her potential withdrew their offer the second they heard about her visa status. “But worst of all, being considered an alien, an outsider in the only place you know to call home is a different kind of pain,” she said.
Dip Patel, president of Improve the Dream, in a statement, said that Rajakumar’s moving testimony shows the urgent need to update the broken system, including the need to permanently end the problem of aging for children who are raised and educated in the United States. “For thousands of young people growing up with uncertainty, there is constant anxiety regarding one’s future in what we consider our home…We urge Congress to consider this and act fast to pass common-sense immigration reform,” he said.
During the hearing, Padilla questioned Rajakumar about her experience as a documented dreamer and how a pathway to citizenship and the enactment of America’s Children Act would impact her life. Raja kumar pointed to the fact that it would mean that she wouldn’t have to be separated from her family and the country she’s called her home for the last twenty years.