Washington, D.C.Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) led by Congresswomen Deborah Ross (NC-02), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02), and Zoe Lofgren (CA-19) that will protect more than 200,000 young immigrants known as Documented Dreamers.

The children of employment-based nonimmigrant visa holders face the risk of deportation when they age out of legal immigration status at the age of 21. This amendment will protect these children from aging out by fixing gaps in our immigration system and by addressing serious flaws in the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA).

“Documented Dreamers represent the very best of America and contribute in significant ways to our national security,” said Congresswoman Ross. “I have heard directly from Documented Dreamers in my district who want to serve our country in uniform. It is unconscionable that we continue to force many of these talented, patriotic young people to self-deport to countries they may barely remember. I am incredibly proud that this amendment has passed the House, and I will continue working with my colleagues in the Senate to get it across the finish line.”

“I am proud to see the House pass this bipartisan measure to protect young dependents of long-term visa holders who have grown up in the U.S. and have come here legally,” said Congresswoman Miller-Meeks. “These dependents, including some of my constituents, come here legally as young children. They grow up in the United States, study here, and call this place home. Unfortunately, due to a broken immigration system and a decades long backlog, many of them are forced to leave. When these individuals are forced to leave, it is a loss to America’s communities and employers. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to pass this provision into law and support legal immigration.”

“I’m proud the House passed this important bipartisan amendment,” said Congresswoman Lofgren, Chair of the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship. “Despite growing up here and often obtaining a world class education at American universities, children of immigrants on employment-based visas are often forced to return to a country they’ve never known if they turn 21 before their parent reaches the front of the green card line. This amendment is a crucial step to protect these children and keep families together.”

“Today's bipartisan passage of Congresswomen Deborah Ross and Miller-Meeks' provision to permanently end aging out is the most significant milestone yet for our movement,” said Dip Patel, Founder of Improve the Dream. “Over 200,000 young people have more hope than ever that they will have a chance to continue contributing, giving back to their communities, and helping their country's future. It is now clear that keeping American raised and educated talent here is important for our prosperity and national security. We urge the Senate to include this provision in the final bill. Delay in taking action will not only lead to tearing more families apart, but also continue to hurt American communities. Passage of this provision reaffirms that America welcomes those who are drawn toward its ideals, and that by empowering people to tap into their talents and ambitions, the American dream grows more attainable for everybody.”

These children come to the United States on their parents’ visas, grow up in our communities, and attend American schools and universities. Many are also listed on their parents’ green card applications. Due to the decades-long visa backlog and flaws in CSPA, many of these young adults age out of legal immigration status before a visa number for a green card finally becomes available. As a result, they lose their temporary status and their opportunity to obtain a green card. 

The amendment includes age out protections for dependent children on green card applications as well as nonimmigrant dependent children. The amendment:

  • Fixes the CSPA to allow a child’s age to be frozen based on when a parent’s first employment-based green card application was initiated and backdates these changes to the passage of the CSPA in 2002;
  • Protects young adults who have been in the United States as dependent children for at least eight years by allowing them to remain dependents on their parent’s employment-based nonimmigrant visa after age 21 until a visa number for their parent’s green card becomes available or until they are able to obtain another status; and
  • Provides employment authorization to those covered by age out protections for nonimmigrant dependent children. 

A one-pager on the amendment is available here.

Congresswomen Ross and Miller-Meeks introduced the bipartisan America’s CHILDREN Act in the House last year. This legislation would provide a path to citizenship for Documented Dreamers. Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate by Senators Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Rand Paul (R-KY).