My name is Prerna Lal. You may know me as one of the founders of DreamActivist or from the Immigrant Rights blog at Change.org where I have worked for the past two years to stop the deportations of several members of our community. I serve as a board member for Immigration Equality and I was the recipient of a Changemaker Award at the South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) summit this year.
I am writing this because I am currently sitting for my first-year law school exams at The George Washington University, and already, I’m facing the trial of my life. The United States government has decided to prosecute and deport me away from my family, friends and community. They sent me a notice to appear for removal proceedings last week. And now I am being separated from my American family.
My only grandparent alive is a U.S. citizen. She voted for President Obama in the last elections, who promised immigration reform in the first year of his office, and she is now wondering why he is deporting her grand-daughter. My tax-paying legal resident parents brought me here when I was a minor. Even my older sibling is a U.S. citizen. I grew up in this country. This is my home.
So why am I in removal proceedings? The simple answer is that I aged-out. Due to the number of visas allocated to each category and the slow movement (and retrogression) of family visa categories, I turned 21 before my family could petition for a green card for me. As a result, I am being removed from the country that I call home and I cannot re-enter for any reason for the next 10 years. I cannot see the rest of my family for the next 10 years.
However, I would qualify for a green-card immediately if USCIS did not have a questionable (and much litigated) interpretation of the Child Status Protection Act, a legislation that was passed by Congress to prevent children of U.S. citizens and legal residents from aging-out of family, employer and diversity visa petitions. A nation-wide class action lawsuit is pending on this matter in the Ninth Circuit, but instead of holding petitions in abeyance till the lawsuit is resolved, USCIS cannot wait to deport qualifying, young people away from their homes.
I would have also benefited from the passage of the federal DREAM Act, a piece of legislation that would put certain immigrant youth on a pathway to citizenship. Just this week, 22 Senators called on President Obama to use his authority to stop deporting DREAM Act-eligible youth like myself. The letter read, “We would support a grant of deferred action to all young people who meet the rigorous requirements necessary to be eligible for cancellation of removal or a stay of removal under the DREAM Act, as requested on a bipartisan basis by Senators Durbin and Lugar last April.”
Even if one is in favor of the most stringent immigration policies, it makes no sense for the government to spend thousands of dollars and several years in litigation to remove productive and non-criminal immigrant youth like me from our homes. In response to this atrocity, my friends have created a petition to top immigration officials to stop this ridiculous prosecution. You can read more and sign the petition here.
My queer and law school friends are also outraged and are throwing together a fundraiser in support of me (and the DREAM Act) on May 6 in Washington D.C. Check here for more details.