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They Came to the U.S. Legally as Children. At 21, They Face Deportation.

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Billy Binion | 9.17.2021 10:40 AM

Padma Danturty has been a legal resident of the U.S. since she was 8 months old. Had she come to the country illegally, her future here would likely be more secure.

That's because the 18-year-old does not qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the Obama-era policy that protects individuals from deportation if they came to the U.S. unlawfully as children through no fault of their own. Recipients are colloquially referred to as "Dreamers."

But Danturty did not come here illegally. She is instead one of about 200,000 "Documented Dreamers," an obscure group of individuals who were brought to the U.S. legally with their parents yet face expulsion if they are unable to obtain a green card or visa by the time they turn 21 years old. In her case, she faces self-deportation to India.

"I have no memory of it," she says. "I can barely speak my native language, so it would be really hard to communicate. I don't know what I would do exactly."

At present, DACA shields about 650,000 young immigrants from deportation and allows its recipients to apply for work permits. But the policy inadvertently excludes hundreds of thousands of documented children who fell through the legal cracks. "Even if you do the 'right' things, you could still end up in a place of insecurity," says Danturty.

Though circumstances vary across the spectrum of Documented Dreamers, Danturty's parents moved to the United States to study at the University of Connecticut and took jobs on work visas soon after. That left Danturty on a dependent visa—and her legally allotted time on that is running thin, even as her parents remain safe from deportation.

A bipartisan bill—introduced in the House in July and in the Senate this week—hopes to eliminate the nightmare scenario. Should it pass, those like Danturty will no longer have to race against time before being sent to a foreign country they've often never experienced.

"I've heard from a number of my constituents that it affects their families," Rep. Deborah Ross (D–N.C.), who introduced the House version of the bill, tells Reason. "Many of their children come at young........

© Reason.com

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