Why are these students afraid of their 21st birthdays

That’s the moment when everything she works for can disappear.

“All my friends are excited to talk about turning 21 – the barbell, all that… but that’s just what scares me,” she said.

On the day she turns 21, Parvathinathan will no longer be protected by a work visa that allows her parents to immigrate to the United States from India. And she could face deportation.

They call themselves “Documented Dreamers,” and they say their circumstances show how broken the US immigration system is.

Even legal immigrants face insurmountable obstacles, says Dip Patel. The 25-year-old pharmacist is the founder Improve your dream, a group of “Documented Dreamers” urge Congress and the Biden administration to help save their futures.

“The whole situation is that most people don’t really know, even exist,” he said, “that an immigrant child can be brought here legally, do all the their education here, but still no chance of becoming an American.”

Lakshmi Parvathinathan, 19, said that worrying about whether she could stay in the United States robbed her of her childhood.  "  We're just kids, but it doesn't feel that way,

‘Victims of outdated immigration laws’

According to Julia Gelatt, a senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, this issue is affecting more and more people.

One key reason: the green card backlog is huge – especially for immigrants from India; it can take decades for them to even get a chance to apply. That means many people who came to the US as children are still waiting for their family’s turn when they turn 21. At that point, the children of adult visa holders are no longer considered immigrants. dependent and they were kicked out of the ranks. and was forced to find their own way to stay in the country legally.

Another factor: some families who came to the United States on certain temporary work visas were never eligible to apply for permanent residency.

And because young people in these groups have visas that allow them to legally live in the United States, they are not covered by Deferred Childhood Action, or DACA, the Obama-era program that provided work permits and protection from deportation for hundreds of people. thousands of undocumented immigrants were brought to the United States as children.

“‘Documented Dreamers” are just one of many victims of our outdated immigration laws that no longer match the way immigration really works today,” Gelatt said. .”

Dip Patel, founder of Dream Improvement, said the plight of
The members of Dream Improvement are hoping to fix that. They made rounds in Washington, pushing members of Congress through a proposed law that would give “Documented Dreamers” the opportunity to become permanent residents of the United States, as long as they have lived here for at least 10 years with a valid visa and graduated from a higher education institution.

“We just hope there is a future for all of us and we can stay and contribute to the country we call home,” said Patel.

Otherwise, Parvathinathan said, the consequences would be dire.

She is having a hard time while waiting for her student visa

The 19-year-old sophomore at Drexel University in Philadelphia hopes to one day become a doctor. Parvathinathan is majoring in biological sciences and trying to focus on her studies. But her fear of the future is always present.

She came to America for the first time when she was 3 years old. And she doesn’t want to be forced to give up everything she’s worked for and move to India, where she says she feels like an expat.

Parvathinathan said she was trying to get a student visa so she could stay in the United States after her 21st birthday. It hasn’t arrived yet, 14 months after she applied. She is always ready, waiting for the word and jumping up every time an email notification shows up on her mobile screen.

“It’s something that I always think about,” she said.

Getting a student visa can be difficult for Dreamers, says Gelatt of the Immigration Policy Institute, because applicants are required to demonstrate that they do not plan to stay in the US – something hard to prove to teenagers who have spent most of their time. their life here.

And even getting a student visa doesn’t stop them from worrying – it just gives them more time until they have to try to find another temporary way to stay in the country, such as a work visa. employer-sponsored.

“It’s like you’re drowning, and every few years you take a breath, then get pulled back down,” says Anagh Kulkarni, who turns 21 in January.

Anagh Kulkarni, 20, worries that she won't be able to get into medical school because of her immigration status.
Kulkarni is a student at Ohio State University and also hopes to become a doctor. But he knows his chances are slim, as he will be considered an international student – which means most US medical schools are not even able to entertain with the concept of accepting him. He was also unable to get any hospital work experience to improve his application, as his dependent visa did not provide a work permit. All that made Kulkarni full of anxiety and didn’t know if he had a future in this country or not.

“Even if I do the best thing anyone has ever done,” he said, “I don’t know if I can stay.”

She was forced to leave after she couldn’t find a job

It was a dilemma Erin Crosbie knew all too well. After living in Florida for nearly 17 years and earning a nursing degree from the University of South Florida, she says she has no choice but to move back to Northern Ireland for the summer when she can’t find a way to stay. USA. Statuses.

She obtained a student visa that allowed her to stay in the country beyond her 21st birthday, but as the expiration date was about to expire, Crosbie started looking for work. She says the pandemic has made her more determined than ever to become a critical care nurse, but job after job she’s applied for tells her they can’t. hired her because of her immigration status. Every rejected phone call caused her to panic.

“It was difficult. They didn’t say ‘no’ to me. Not that I did something wrong or didn’t have the right qualifications,” she said. “It was because of something beyond my control. I felt helpless.”

Erin Crosbie, 24, said she was forced to leave the United States and return to Northern Ireland when she could not find work.  But America is where her closest friends and family live.  "  That's where my life stays,

Now, the 24-year-old is trying to restart her life in another country – more than 4,000 miles away from her closest friends and family. The pain of having to leave them behind still stings. She still hasn’t been able to update her social media profile with her new location.

Her parents, Nigel and Alison Crosbie, said the separation was heartbreaking. They came to the United States in 2004 on E-2 visas for investors in US businesses, brought along Erin, then 7 years old, and her sister Morgan, then 3 years old.

Now, parents say they are faced with a painful possibility – that the only way their close-knit family can come together is for them to sell the Florida business they spent 17 years building and moving back to Northern Ireland.

Nigel Crosbie said: “I was annoyed because we did everything legally, but if you do things illegally, then you seem to go further.

Congress can fix this. But that can be hard to come by

And it’s hard to believe help will come from Washington, says Nigel Crosbie. Immigration, he said, always seems too toxic for any politician.

“No matter which party is in power, it’s like a cup of poison,” he said. “Nobody wants to do that. They keep kicking the can in the street.” “They just don’t realize the impact it’s having on people’s lives being divided.”

Erin Crosbie stands with her parents and sister after graduating with a bachelor's degree in nursing from the University of South Florida.  "  What I got though was the right degree, the right career path.  ... I had absolutely no idea that my whole life was about to be turned upside down,
Parvathinathan says she feels optimistic after a recent visit to Washington with other members of Dream Improvement. The group shared their stories with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. They are hoping Legislation was introduced to help them earlier this year will ultimately ensure there is enough bipartisan support to get through – and the Biden administration will include them in the DACA reform plan.
The major social spending bill that House Democrats recently passed will give them some protection, But it facing an uphill battle in the Senate. When – and whether – any relief will come is anyone’s guess.

So Parvathinathan is trying to remind herself to be patient. But she finds herself still facing too many questions that she cannot answer.

During a recent interview for a program at her university, one asked her where she sees herself in 5 or 10 years.

She didn’t know what to say.


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