CHARLOTTE — Documented dreamers in the United States face an uncertain future. Many of them have called the U.S. home since they were babies but as they age out of the program, their time may be coming to an end.
According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, “Documented Dreamers are foreign nationals who entered the United States as dependents under their parents’ temporary, nonimmigrant visa status, usually a work visa.”
At 21-years-old, documented dreamers age out of dependent status and face self-deportation. Backlogs and wait times for green cards pose a challenge to many documented dreamers as they race against the clock to not age out. Improve The Dream, a nonprofit that brings awareness to documented dreamers, estimates more than 200,000 people are in this situation.
Fedora Castelino, a student at the University of South Carolina, is one of them.
“I want to serve,” she said. “I want to be in the U.S. Army. I want to be an engineer in the medical corps. That is my dream.”
Castelino is an H4 dependent who has lived in the U.S. since she was six years old. Her dream of serving in the military is in jeopardy because in less than three years, she may have to self-deport back to India.
“I don’t fully read or write Hindi, the language that is in India,” Castelino said. “Going back is a nightmare. It’s also scary. It’s not just going back. It’s starting fresh in a country I don’t know.”
There’s momentum on the federal level to change the measure. The National Defense Authorization Act passed by the House included an amendment that includes age-out protections for dependent children on green card applications, as well as nonimmigrant dependent children.
The issue is championed by Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Raleigh, who describes the current system as sad and tragic.
“The fact that the parents would be allowed to stay, but the child would have to leave when the child really has known no other country than the United States is cruel,” Ross said. “But it’s also pointless and it’s not good for America.”
Ardrey Kell High School graduate and N.C. State student Sashank Sabbineni says he got a green card just months shy of having to start the self-deportation process.
“I grew up saying the pledge of allegiance every day,” Sabbineni told Bruno. “I didn’t know what it feels like to not be American. I still don’t to this day.”
He’s now fighting with Fedora and thousands of others to help documented dreamers stay in the country..
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