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

A new bill could give some hope to "Documented Dreamers."


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 ages and really don't know any other place….The parents might even be able to stay with a [work] visa, but the child would have to leave. It's a heartbreaking situation."

Pareen Mhatre is also mired in such a situation, although her position is a bit more dire. She is 21.

In many ways, Mhatre's story mirrors that of Danturty's, having arrived in the U.S. at 4 months old after her parents moved from India to matriculate at the University of Iowa, where they are now employed. The school applied for their green cards "as soon as they could," says Mhatre—a measure that should have spared the family this dreadful scenario. But her parents have remained on work visas while they continue to wait in line, wading for years through a forest of bureaucratic red tape as Mhatre's clock keeps ticking.

"I've lived in this country for the past 21 years," she says. "It's really the only country I know."

Mhatre's dependent visa has already expired, though she bought herself a bit more time with a student visa in order to study at the University of Iowa. Once she graduates, she can apply for an H-1B work visa, should she find a high-skilled job and an employer who wants to pay to sponsor her. Even if she does, she is not guaranteed success: The program runs on a lottery. This year, the government approved 28 percent of applicants.

Otherwise, she will have to self-deport to India.

Yet the problems for Documented Dreamers do not begin and end with a looming expulsion date. "Growing up, I felt like any other American kid," says Mhatre. She eventually realized that wasn't the case: Even with legal status in the country, Documented Dreamers are not permitted to work, they are not allowed to get a driver's license in certain states, and when applying to colleges, they are often hit with international student tuition fees even though they reside in the U.S.

"When I was a freshman and sophomore, I didn't go to any of the career fairs," adds Mhatre, "because I knew that I wouldn't be able to apply for any of the internships." Danturty expresses much of the same: "I see a lot of my friends working….It's hard because I'd like to make money myself too, but I can't." Both the House and Senate bills—the latter of which was introduced by Sens. Rand Paul (R–Ky.) and Alex Padilla (D–Calif.)—would allow Documented Dreamers to obtain a work permit.

"Knowing that I don't have a sense of stability or a secure future in this country is really scary. It's definitely made me realize that I'm grateful to be here," says Mhatre. And if the bill doesn't pass? "[Our] parents tried to do everything by the book," she replies. "Having stressed over applications, immigration law, and now this is what [our] famil[ies] get: no hope for the future."

NEXT: White House Offers Clemency for Drug Offenders on Home Confinement, but Advocates Say Plan Will Still Send Thousands Back to Prison

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  1. Now do the southern border chaos and how the FAA is preventing anyone from seeing drone footage.

    Senile Joe has managed to take a situation and turn it into utter complete failure. Again.

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    2. The FAA was worried Senile Joe might drone strike the bridge.

  2. The end of every day is the perfect time to let your imagination run wild and declare yourself to that special someone. A simple goodnight message can bring a smile, but a very passionate and romantic phrase is even better!

  3. The legal immigration system needs fixed, yet there is no push to do it. Anybody wonder why? Immigration is big business. Immigration lawyers make lots of money and some of it makes it’s way to the DNC.

    1. New voters too.

    2. 1 million a year make it through the system fine.

    3. By the way. Preferable solution is seasonal visas as proposed in 2006.

    4. Parents were accepted here on a temporary basis on a student visa.
      They managed to parlay that into a different kind of visa, but their presence here, and their child’s presence was agreed by all parties 20 years ago to be temporary.
      The fact that their child remains a temporary resident with the clock ticking is a feature, not a bug. In essence, the kid is an ‘anchor baby’, anchoring the family to their place of permanent residence, India.

      1. And, to be clear, it’s not that the kid couldn’t have gotten a permanent visa, if the parents had bothered to be proactive. Rather, the parents just let the clock run out, only taking care of themselves.

  4. The one way to kill a bipartisan solution to a problem is to draw attention to it.

  5. Looks bangable. I vote to let her stay.

    1. As long as her hair smells nice Biden agrees.

  6. I’m sorry, but doesn’t this article describing the brutality and capriciousness of the American government belong on the website of some SJW liberal cuck who would care about such things? It certainly doesn’t belong on the website of the leading libertarian publication in the United States, which should concern itself with a.) craft breweries, b.) the value of dumping your kids off at the park so you can go get a drink (see a.) and c.) the tax rates paid by people with incomes that we’ll never see.

    This article just seems out of place is what I’ll say.

    1. Have I mentioned how much I appreciate any brand of “socia1ism” that sides with Charles Koch over Bernie Sanders on immigration?

      1. Yes. Like for the millionth time. Fortunately, because right-wing buttfuckers like you acted so deplorably while Dear Leader was President we now have a socialist, Bernie Sanders, as chairman of the Senate Banking Cmte. So… you can be assured their taxes are going up. The thanks go to you and all your fellow gaslighting dicks. Thank you!

        1. “we now have a socialist, Bernie Sanders, as chairman of the Senate Banking Cmte”

          LOL! Thanks for another example of OpenBordersLiberal-tarian’s First Law.

          Democratic economic messaging: Look! The Democratic establishment is becoming more like Bernie, not the other way around!

          Democratic economic reality: The top 10 richest Americans have gained a combined $256 billion — IOW more than a quarter of a trillion dollars — in about 8 months of the #BidenBoom.

          Still, for proof you’re 100% obedient Democrat and 0% genuine socialist, I don’t think you’ll ever top your post from the other day. You know, the one where you celebrated California, the state with THE HIGHEST POVERTY RATE IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY, because all you care about is that it’s easy to get an abortion there.


          1. And we only had to spend $12 trillion to do it!!!

        2. I love how you democrats are focused laser like on behavior over actual policies. Almost like you are unserious. And fall easily for media manipulation.

    2. Worrying about the brutality and capriciousness of government isn’t really a Socialist’s thing, so this comment seems really out of place is what I’ll say.

    3. Reason all of these things. And no, it won’t just limit itself to talking only about the libertarian things you want, which, going by your “socialist” username, I assume aren’t that many to begin with.

  7. The simple solution is to put the California DMV in charge of processing the migrants. The line would extend all the way to Honduras.

    1. “The simple solution is to put the California DMV in charge of processing the migrants. The line would extend all the way Honduras.”

      There you go again — forever the optimist re the DMV.

    2. “The line would extend all the way to Honduras.”

      Last time I checked, it does.

  8. We can disagree about legislation, but the thing we should all agree on is that the separation of powers should require that these questions be answered through Congress rather than by an executive order of the president.

    “At present, DACA shields about 650,000 young immigrants from deportation and allows its recipients to apply for work permits.”

    The current state is that those who are already on the record are protected, but the Biden administration isn’t allowed to accept any new applications until the ruling that ruled DACA unconstitutional makes its way through the appeals process.

    Three points:

    1) DACA is the ultimate reason why so many of the asylums seekers in our present border crisis are children (80% of them, at one point, were either children or families traveling with children).

    2) The border crisis will become the new normal if the congressional fix doesn’t apply a cut off date. If no one can be deported if they come here as children in perpetuity, then the border crisis will become the new normal in perpetuity.

    3) DACA is the thing holding Congress back from acting. So long as the Dreamers aren’t in danger of being deported, Congress won’t bother to stick its neck out to save them; i. e., DACA isn’t just protecting the Dreamers. It’s kept them in legal limbo since 2012.

    1. 3) DACA is the thing holding Congress back from acting. So long as the Dreamers aren’t in danger of being deported, Congress won’t bother to stick its neck out to save them; i. e., DACA isn’t just protecting the Dreamers. It’s kept them in legal limbo since 2012.

      Its crazy to me that this is the reality that pro-immigration leftists are comfortable with now. It leaves DACA recipients at the mercy of whatever administration is in power at the time, which now that there’s a name and an identifiable issue, one side or the other will always make an issue out of it.

      If Trump’s team had been a little better at filling out paperwork, the program would have ended entirely. Wouldn’t you think immigration activists would be panicking that Biden could lose in the next election and demanding a more permanent fix? Almost any incremental change has to be better than this.

      1. I blame the Supreme Court.

        They kicked the can down the road because they wanted to kick the can down the road.

        1. And if they hadn’t kicked the can down the road, Congress would have voted on a proposal to protect them within the week.

          1. You mean like the proposal that failed in the Senate – The Dream Act?
            The one that 0blama absolutely went rogue on, by implementing DACA, in defiance of the Congressional vote?
            If there had been one thing that had been prohibited of the president, it was making executive orders that contradicted Congressional actions, yet he got away with it.

      2. They have always been comfortable with it. Bush offered a comprehensive solution that would have included higher quotas, guest worker visas and other protections that basically would have eliminated the illegal immigration problem. Team D was hostile to the prospect… Because guest workers would not have a path to citizenship.

        Team R was not totally on board either.

        So we have the Obama – Biden solution, namely, invite illegal immigrants to come in and be exploited with a promise of no enforcement and periodic amnesties.

        (you will recall that the last amnesty in the 90’s was part of a deal that said there would never be another amnesty, ever.).

      3. Why do you think it’s crazy? This turns it into a polarizing issue where Democrats can spout off about compassion while attacking their opposition but when it comes time to act they can do nothing and not be held accountable. It is cruelty and malice in the guise of compassion.

      4. Wouldn’t you think immigration activists would be panicking that Biden could lose in the next election and demanding a more permanent fix?

        That’s a feature, not a bug, of the Dems actions. They passed Obamacare without a single Republican vote, but they didn’t use their power at that time to fix the immigration system. The Dems want millions of people living in America under the threat of deportation so they can scare people with a humanitarian crisis if they loose.

  9. I visited Ireland legally when I worked there. They expected me to leave at some point, which I did.
    CDC gonna issue a deportation moratorium?




      1. Joe Biden does have a plan for this.

        Citizens of the United States
        1. Don’t congregate in large groups
        2. Don’t travel especially to or from countries with extremely low vaccination rates
        3. Wear masks
        4. If you won’t do all the above, there will be consequences.

        1. Don’t worry about a thing, you just get here safely.

        1. Immigrants
          2. Remember to vote for the ones with a “D” after their names.
          (Real Americans have gotten tired of the advancing socialism)

      2. LOL I think socialist kiddies watch too much porn and netflix these days.


        That’s a whole genre of videos.

        1. #BNWO and #MNWO if you want the not safe for work content.

    2. Buttplug wants as many undocumented kids in the US as possible.

  11. Binion, did you dig into what prevented these folks from applying for citizenship in the 18, 21, et cetera years that they were here> Given the stupidly slow and badly in need of reform immigration process, one would think that they one might get on that sooner versus after it becomes an issue. Unless one has an agenda in not applying in a timely fashion, I suppose.

    1. I got the sense this wasn’t telling the whole story too. A lot of “personal story” Reason pieces are like that, from bozos who get tickets to those who get roughed up by cops.

    2. Reminder:

      In 2018, Trump even offered Democrats a deal that would protect dreamers in exchange for border wall funding, which they didn’t take. “I have offered DACA a wonderful deal, including a doubling in the number of recipients & a twelve year pathway to citizenship, for two reasons: (1) Because the Republicans want to fix a long time terrible problem. (2) To show that Democrats do not want to solve DACA, only use it!” Trump said.

      Biden Accidentally Admits Trump’s Solution to DACA Was Always the Right One

  12. the latter of which was introduced by Sens. Rand Paul (R–Ky.)

    Who’s Rand Paul and why should Reason readers be concerned that a filthy Republican stopped clock sometimes tells the correct time?

    1. According to Reason, “the most interesting man in the Senate” once upon a time, for a “libertarian moment”. But that’s when federal spending was 35% lower, a few years ago.

  13. Hassling a bunch of students and selecting tech workers on a restrictive lottery while allowing throngs of Haitians to swarm across the border. Our immigration system is pretty messed up.

  14. Calling people in this situation “Dreamers” is not merely a colloquialism, it is propaganda and shameless emotional manipulation. DACA, whatever its merits as a policy, exists as a decree of the imperial presidency and therefore should not be. A good argument can be made that alien children who have been long time legal residents should get special consideration for green cards and naturalization is probably a good policy. On the other hand, their parents put them in this position and if the parents had not prepared their children for a known issue, then the responsibility falls largely on the oarents.

    1. Yeah, I wonder how many iterations and test panels they went through before coming up with “dreamers”. That is some really naked propaganda right there.

    2. Ms-13 have dreams too racist.

    3. Sort of like calling unarmed pro-democracy protestors on public property “insurrectionists”.

    4. I see your point. Although the current immigration system is messed up, and someone who has been here for over a decade should be a citizen already, the parents should have figured out a contingency plan in case of deportation.

  15. You have to act yourself why addressing the immigration status of these Documented Dreamers and Dreamers is such a problem. What kind of country turns its back on young people who grew up here. That Congress has not addressed this problem speaks to the failure of it as a government body. This should be an easy call.

    1. You also have to ask yourself, what kind of president invites people to bring their children to the united states illegally on his personal promise that they will not be deported?

      1. Especially The President who was front-and-center for the last 50 yrs. indecisive inaction.

  16. The answer to this is not to throw your hands up and just push for amnesty for 30 million “undocumented” people as a solution, but to stop being incompetent at bureaucracy and process visa and green card applications in a timely manner. A few weeks is plenty of time.

    I sponsored a couple of people. I paid $8,500 back at the turn of the century to get one person a work permit, then another $15,000 to turn that into a green card. It took about 7 or 8 years total to run through that. We is now a well to do citizen who pays heavy taxes as a high income earner and her kids are going to be a great addition to the nation.

    There is no excuse for any application process to cost that much or take that long. We are obviously doing it on purpose. Team D wants illegal immigrants and periodic amnesty declarations. They want the power from the political wedge issue, and they want the cheap maids and yard service. Team R at least offered a guest worker program to address team D’ s obsession with exploiting cheap labor without providing full protection of constitutional rights. But everybody wants their Purdue chicken processed by illegals.

  17. Nice appeal to emotion. Is the same emotion for those who come over as 16 or 17 year olds?

  18. End the welfare industrial complex first.

    1. Yup. Especially with regards to things like the ACA, imposed under false pretense and against a large portion of peoples’ wishes. Right that intentional wrong against people who themselves and their parents broke no law and crossed no border and I might believe you give a shit about all the other details. My kids didn’t vote for the TSA or SS, where’s their must-have Congressional legislative correction?

  19. Well I wouldn’t kick them out. But they’ve had 18-20 years to get the paperwork in order. It shouldn’t be that complicated.

    1. The parents, with their then infant child, came here on a time limited basis through student visa’s.
      Parents got their time extended. Child did not. This might be a feature rather than a bug, as the child now anchors the family back in India, they place the parents agreed to return to after their education completed. Kinda sucks for the kid that parents got their stay extended with different visa’s but not her’s; but that’s family for ya.

  20. If I were to apply this logic elsewhere i don’t think it would be as convincing as Billy ms to think. “Of course Best Buy owes me a new 72″ TV, my dad bought one from them years ago” yeah, no.

    These people are not citizens and need update their status now that they are adults. Is the process overly cumbersome and time consuming, yes and that should be fixed but that is not the article’s premise. Attempt to pull on my heartstrings to manipulate me to support open borders and my reaction is fuck you and fuck them.

  21. Ugh! I wonder if the apex of this xenophobic-???????? will be a retrograde version of this:

  22. Ugh! I wonder if the apex of this xenophobic-bullshit will be a retrograde version of this:

  23. Such casualties have to be accepted in the culture war. It’s all for some greater good, or something.

  24. Screw them. Send them packing.

  25. I was deported from Israel, because my tourism visa expired before I could get my documents from America to allow me to switch to immigrant status. The Israeli immigration authority told me I could come back as an immigrant when my papers were in order. It’s not the worse thing I’ve been through.

    1. You didn’t grow up in Israel.

      1. I believe all “bonafide” Jews may legally immigrate to Israel. That was kinda the point, after all.

  26. tl;dr version: US immigration law is an awful mess, and the do-nothing US Congress is too busy negotiating over how much to spend buying votes to do anything about it.

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