December 11, 2023

Immigration Green Card

Immigration Is Good For You

200,000 ‘Documented Dreamers’ Are Literally Waiting a Lifetime for a Green Card

2 min read

After they graduated — cum laude, both of them — Eti and Eva became experts in the U.S. visa system.

Eva currently works as a financial analyst in San Francisco, and her employer sponsored her for an H-1B, the most common visa in Silicon Valley.

That H-1B is temporary, of course. It expires in 2026, unless her employer applies for a renewal, or a green card, or she returns to her “home country,” a country she’s visited but doesn’t consider home.

“We are, like, as American as people who are American citizens,” said Eva. “We grew up here. We want to continue our lives here. We want to contribute to the American economy here. Everybody else perceives us as American as well, from our peers to my, like, managers, etcetera. I think we’re American in every way but on paper.”

Two teenage girls stand at the top of a mountain as the sun sets behind them.
Eti and Eva Sinha strike a pose at the summit of Mission Peak in Fremont. (Courtesy of Monica Sinha)

“It’s so obvious to everyone but, for some reason, not the U.S. government,” Eti added.

Eti searched for full-time work after college, but couldn’t find a company willing to sponsor her. So she’s now on an F-1, an academic visa. “I am a Ph.D. student at Cornell University in New York, studying biomedical engineering,” she said.

After Eti graduates, she’ll have to do the same thing as Eva: find an employer to sponsor her for an H-1B and then, hopefully, a green card. Essentially, they’re both hopscotching from one temporary visa to another, to stay in this country.

There’s a name for this dilemma, for what Eti and Eva became: “Documented Dreamers.” Most of them are Asian, with roughly 70% being Indian, according to the advocacy group Improve the Dream.

At a recent committee hearing in Sacramento, Eva testified on behalf of a bill put forward by State Sen. Maria Elena Durazo of Los Angeles. “Senate Bill 1160 will allow dependent visa students that meet existing eligibility requirements to pay in-state tuition at California’s public colleges and universities,” even after they turn 21, Durazo said at the hearing.

This bill isn’t for the Sinha sisters. It’s for the students, the “Documented Dreamers” coming after them. Even though SB 1160 can’t address federal immigration law, it can make the cost of a college education in California a little more feasible.

That’s good enough for Eva, today.

“Doing it piece by piece, at least we can get some movement going. Having one big legislation, which will definitely solve everything? In the way that our government is designed? It’s just going to take forever,” Eva said.


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