U.S. Representative Mike Coffman (R-CO), along with U.S. Representative Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), introduced the Recognizing American Children Act that if enacted, will provide legal status and a path to Lawful Permanent Resident status for those currently eligible under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
“They were brought here as children, grew up here, went to school here, and often don’t know of any other country as home except this one,” Coffman said. “If they can demonstrate their commitment to keeping a job or getting an education, they ought to be able to earn a path to becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident and those who serve honorably in the military deserve a direct path to citizenship.”
The Recognizing American Children Act gives immigrant children, who arrived in the United States before the age of 16, obtained a high school diploma or the equivalent, and have maintained residence in the U.S. for at least the previous five consecutive years the opportunity to earn conditional non-immigrant status for five years if he or she meets one of the following requirements:
- Has been accepted to an accredited school of higher education or vocational school;
- Has demonstrated the intent to enlist in a branch of the military; or
- Has an existing and valid work authorization.
After five years, if the individual has demonstrated an ongoing ability to meet the criteria, the Secretary of Homeland Security may extend a non-immigrant status for an additional five years. Should that person continue to contribute as a productive member of society after the additional five-year extension through work, education, or military service then he or she may apply for Lawful Permanent Resident status.
If, however, an individual fails to demonstrate that he or she can successfully meet at least one of these criteria, he or she will not be eligible to receive a non-immigrant status.
“This is just one step out of many necessary to fix our broken immigration system,” Coffman continued. "We still must secure our borders and have immigration policies that will grow our economy and that are compassionate in keeping families together.”
“There are many young immigrants in our country who came involuntarily with their families as minors. They have grown up with our own kids and attended American schools - many speaking only English. Today they are trying to make a contribution to our great nation through the economy or the military. These are undoubtedly America’s children. This legislation recognizes them as such by giving them the opportunity to adjust their status. In a season when some are accentuating our differences for personal political gain, our country should come together to support these hard working young people who have earned their place in America,” said Curbelo.
The Recognizing American Children Act does not apply to newly arrived Central American children seeking refugee status under the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.