My name is Jessica, I am 20 years old, and I am a senior at the University of Iowa. I am majoring in Psychology and minoring in Rehabilitation Counselor Education. I was born in Toronto, Canada, and moved to a small town in Iowa when I was 11 years old- I had just finished the 5th grade. My family and I had no idea the immigration challenges that were awaiting us in the future. Currently I am supported as a H4- dependent of H1-B visa holders, which will expire in a few months when I age out. Throughout my life this set me apart from my classmates, but the only differentiation I felt was legality status on paper. It wasn’t hard for me to assimilate to American culture, and I truly felt American- after all the states have been my home for about half of my life now.
Currently, my parents have no idea when we will get our green card, as we have been waiting for almost 10 years. We have come to accept it as an endless waiting, and every 3 years we apply for an extension on our visa, and every time we risk rejection resulting in deportation. The limitations the visa status holds for me have been very challenging, since I am not a citizen I have been illegible for financial aid, various scholarships, loans, etc. One of the biggest challenges I have faced is not being able to legally work, which has placed limitations in regards to experiences and applying for jobs. My family and I have had to make many tough decisions based on my aging out, it is stressful and worrying to have to think about being forced to leave my family, friends, coworkers, and the states I call home.
It is unfair that many of us have to worry about deportation when we turn 21, despite living here for most of our lives. In order for me to stay in America I will have to switch to a student visa until I finish my education, then apply for a work visa- I would have to restart the entire process my parents went through over again. Despite this restart in process, I am still not guaranteed citizenship. I truly believe there should be a path to citizenship for children who grew up in America, and hope one day we won’t have to live in constant worry and fear of leaving the country we all call home.