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Young immigrant to lose legal status after 17 years in country

Legal status for young immigrants has been an issue that has taken many forms in recent years, as far as the political debate is concerned. Efforts to pass a national DREAM Act have fallen short. The current administration is working on putting a work permit process together for young immigrants. But even that policy does not necessarily fully address the legal status issue for all young immigrants.

A story out of the Midwest shows that some young immigrants may not benefit from the immigration policy shift. A 20-year-old woman came to the United States with her parents when she was 4-years-old. She has lived in the United States legally under her parent's non-immigrant visa since her arrival on U.S. soil.

The now 20-year-old has lived legally under her parents' E-2 investor's visa. However, when the young woman turns 21 on August 8, her legal status under her parents' E-2 visa dissolves. An E-2 investment visa is a form of non-immigrant visa.

The young woman's grandparents had come to the U.S. in 1983 and started a farm. The grandmother was injured in a farm accident. Her daughter came to the U.S on the E-2 investment visa with her family to be close to the family matriarch. The grandparents became naturalized citizens in 2003, and immediately began petitioning for green cards for her daughter and the grandchildren. The family still waits for green cards.

The 20-year-old hoped that the petition for a green card under the family visa program would have worked in the past eight or nine years. However, she falls under the family based "third preference" category, which is available for married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. Immigration officials are reportedly issuing green cards to similarly situated people who applied in May 2002 for family based green cards. The young woman's application was submitted in September 2003.

The 20-year-old has decided to leave her family in the U.S., and live with distant family members in England, a place she has not seen since she was 4-years-old. The new administration immigration policy for young immigrants does not apply to the 20-year-old. The deferred action policy announced by the Obama administration does not apply to young immigrants who entered the country legally.

The woman says that there has been no threat that she will be deported when her legal status expires on her 21st birthday. She says that she does not want to live in the country illegally and plans to leave if her immigration issue is not resolved in time.

"I've done everything right," she said. "I've been part of every community I've belonged to. Then to be told you're not welcome anymore? I definitely think it is my right as a human being to live here and stay here. Isn't it supposed to be a welcoming country, a melting-pot country?"

Source: The Kansas City Star, "Gap in policy forces woman to deport herself, reluctantly," Eric Adler, July 17, 2012

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