I have been raised in a country I love, but it does not claim me as its own. When I was five, my parents packed our bags and took a giant leap of faith to move our family from India to the United States; they wanted my baby sister and I to grow up in a place where our opportunities would not be limited by our gender. After the initial struggle of obtaining a visa to travel to America, the process only became more gruesome as we attempted to start a life here.
As a kid, I was spared from the details of our status and the constant work required to renew our visas and stay legal. I learned to read English at the public library, sled down Iowa’s rolling plains every time it snowed, partook in every community event, started clubs for my town, celebrated 4th of July, and contributed to every school extracurricular I could possibly join. I sung American songs, road-tripped American places, learnt American history, and adopted American values. Slowly but surely, I became equal parts American as I was Indian.
It was only when I was offered a selective internship as a middle schooler that I found out I was different from my friends. My dad finally sat me down and gave me "The Talk" --not the one you expect for a middle schooler, but the one you get as a Documented Dreamer. It turned out, I was not American. I am not even a permanent resident of the country from where I have completed my entire kindergarten through 12th grade education. Because of our broken immigration system, although I have lived in the U.S. as a legal immigrant for the past thirteen years, I am treated as an international student, cannot earn money, am not eligible for financial aid, cannot leave the country with a guarantee of returning, and face constant instability and fear of deportation.
Since then, my status has weaved its way into every thought; every action I take is weighed down by the burden of my limitations in this land opportunities. Although I am incredibly fortunate to receive a full ride to Duke University and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill as a Robertson Scholar, I am not sure I will even be able to finish my higher education. As I near my 21st birthday, I face self-deportation and the prospect of leaving behind the only home I've ever known. Right now, as I wait in the decades long backlog for a green card, The Children Act is my only hope for a secure future. Congress, I implore you to provide Documented Dreamers a path to citizenship. We are Americans too.