July 12, 2022

Documented Dreamers face an uncertain future

Most Americans have heard about the plight of young people known as “Dreamers.” They came here as children with undocumented parents. Their ability to stay in the U.S. was temporarily ensured under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative crafted by the Obama administration. Because it didn’t become law, its future is tenuous.

Another group of young immigrants who are not protected under DACA has become more politically active as they face an uncertain future. They’re called “documented Dreamers.” They came here as children of parents with work visas. They’re allowed to stay in the U.S. legally under a parent’s visa. However, because their parents haven’t become permanent residents (green card holders), they can’t get a green card themselves.  Currently, over 250,000 people are considered documented Dreamers.

What are the choices?

They are allowed to stay here under their parents’ visas until they “age out” when they turn 21. Some then have more options than others. If they’re able to attend college or graduate school, they may be able to get a student visa, which can buy them a few more years — sometimes while waiting for their parents to obtain permanent resident status that would allow them to stay.

Others can obtain a work visa if they’re in an occupation that allows one. However, these typically require specialized, in-demand skills and can still take some time to get. Still others self-deport back to their home country – even though many have no memories of that country. Some stay in the U.S. without documentation – which is always a risky choice.

Working to get legislation passed

Documented Dreamers have become increasingly politically active. They have organized and lobbied members of Congress to pass legislation that will cover them as well as children of undocumented immigrants.  

The House of Representatives has passed the Dream and Promise Act of 2021, which would help both documented and undocumented Dreamers. However, getting such legislation through the Senate is more challenging. There has been some support from influential Senate Republicans, so it could still have a chance – likely as part of a larger immigration bill.

In the meantime, if you or your child is going to be facing this choice, it’s wiser to start considering your options rather than waiting for Congress to act. Having legal guidance can help you determine what those options are and how to work toward your goal.