According to current Federal Law, when applying for visas or a change of status, immigrants are permitted to name their children as dependents if they are under the age of 21. However if these children turn 21 before their parents have received permanent residency status, little options are left, as they are then “aged-out” of the process as a dependent child. In order to pursuit a change of status they must start from the beginning. Because they have lost their place in the immigration system, they may be placed in removal proceedings, or they can either remain in the United States illegally, or return to their home country, which many have not lived in for years.
In 1990, officials of the New York City School Districts, searched the world for teachers, and pledged to provide a pathway toward U.S. citizenship. Between 2002 and 2007, approximately 6,000-8,000 immigrant teachers came to the U.S., and many brought their families, an estimated 300 children. However, due to a slow, inefficient system, as well as some misleading visa information, many of the immigrants did not receive permanent residency in time for their children to qualify for their permanent residency. At the age of 21, their young adult children, lost their spot in the system.
After months of convening, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule in a case that will determine whether or not “aged-out” immigrants should keep their place in the immigration system even though they are now 21 years old. Immigration experts have deemed the current federal law unjust arguing that many of these young adults have been partially or wholly raised in the U.S. and are unfamiliar with the culture and lifestyles of their home country. They believe it is cruel to force them to leave America when they are, in a social and cultural context, an American.
In addition, some claim that when children “age-out” of the immigration system, it is a direct violation of the federal law signed by President George W. Bush in 2002, which was meant to freeze a child’s immigration status and allow them to keep their place should they turn 21 before their parents receive green cards. In response, the government has argued that the law was ambiguous, and that it actually referred to freezing the priority date of a 21-year-old immigrant, which is the date when the parents of the child had filed their petitions. This of course does not necessarily protect the immigrant, but instead prevents them from obtaining a new priority date. This could further delay the initial review and decision of their status.
Immigration advocates have pointed out that there is no specific category for “aged-out” beneficiaries. The immigrants themselves are outraged at the fact that they are categorized as illegal immigrants, even though they entered the U.S. with legitimate documents at the mercy of their parents. Today, these young adult immigrants have their fingers crossed as they wait to hear the Supreme Courts final decision, in hopes that they their life will no longer be on hold.