RALEIGH, NC (WTVD) — For the past fourteen years, Sashank Sabbineni, a senior senior at NC State, has lived in the United States.
“Growing up, Charlotte was my home. I didn’t really know much about visas. I didn’t even know I had a visa. I grew up saying the pledge of allegiance every day,” said Sabbineni, standing at the door. . the Memorial Bell Tower on campus.
It wasn’t until high school, when he was looking for an internship, that he understood his legal limitations.
“My parents pretty much told me I wasn’t like all the other kids. I couldn’t apply for a job. I didn’t have a social security number,” says Sabbineni, who studies biochemistry on a pre-med track.
He was born in India, just like Fedora Castelino.
“I had a childhood growing up all American. I can’t remember what it was like not being in America. I actually grew up wanting to serve in the US military. I grew up doing internships, shadowing people , talking to veterans. And it was in high school when I realized that ROTC programs wouldn’t be for me, even though I’m American through and through. It was hard to believe that my future career wouldn’t have the aspect of had the military or the military or the ROTC that I wanted,” said Castelino, who eventually moved to the United States with her family when she was 6 years old; they would eventually settle in Apex.
Both came to the US on H-1B visas, as children of immigrants who worked in the country. That provides legal protection until they are 21 years old, when they are required to obtain a green card or other visa status or undergo self-deportation.
“The medical school admission for international students is incredibly difficult, so it is a very big difference,” said Sabbineni.
“We have to make sure we finish our education before we turn 21. Otherwise, it will be very difficult to transfer to a student visa and try to continue our education in America,” said Castelino, a sophomore at the University of South Carolina. , who studies neuroscience.
“They don’t have the protection that the Dreamers have from DACA because they weren’t included 10 years ago, because 10 years ago we thought they could get their papers to stay here,” Democratic noted. Congresswoman Deborah Ross, who represents the state’s second district.
Immigration backlogs can leave young people like Sabbineni and Castelino stuck in the process, waiting for action from officials over their ability to stay in the country.
Ross is part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers seeking to address this, supporting an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would prevent “aging” for those who have been in the US for at least eight years, allowing them to stay until either a green card visa number becomes available or they can obtain another status.
“We’ve invested decades in these children. We’ve paid for their education in public schools. Their parents pay taxes. They want to stay here. And we’re short of skilled workers right now. So why should we have them deported? to a country they don’t know can compete with the United States?” said Rose.
It’s a problem that mainly affects the Triangle.
“We have so many highly skilled workers who come to work in our universities or work in[Research Triangle Park]and they bring their kids with them,” Ross said.
The lack of status can also separate families like Castelino’s.
“I have a younger sister. She’s just 7 years old and she’s a US citizen. And we’ve been trying to figure out what the next steps are if self-deportation is something we’re dealing with. I practically raised my little sister , and having to leave her behind is something that is very difficult not only for my mental health, but also for my sister’s,” Castelino said. “And my whole family. Divorce is really hard especially when I don’t know my passport country, home of my citizenship. I’ve never really lived there. I moved when I was only three months old and lived in different countries after that.”
Sabbineni is grateful that he no longer has to face that uncertainty, after his family’s application for a green card was approved earlier this year.
“I just went crazy. I remember crying in the library, I called my mom after that and we just cried together. It was just the greatest moment of happiness,” said Sabbineni, who continues to advocate for others who remain in that situation.
Improve the Dream, an advocacy group, estimates that there are more than 200,000 “documented dreamers” in the United States, who have lived in the country for an average of 12 years.
“I got EMT certification a few years ago but couldn’t work as an EMT. I wanted to give back to my community, but I couldn’t because I wasn’t legally allowed to work. Once I got my green card, I was in able to give back to my community by serving as an EMT. I was able to do a research internship this summer and I can fulfill my dreams of going to medical school,” said Sabbineni.
Castelino added, “I’m currently volunteering with the (Sheriff’s Office) in Richland County, South Carolina at the Citizens Academy. So that’s my way of serving. But I really hope in the future I can serve as an officer in the army.”
This amendment deviates from the US CHILDREN Act, a standalone legislation that would create a conditional path to citizenship based on certain residency and education requirements. Ross said there are ongoing efforts to get additional Republican support in the Senate for that bill.
“A lot of my friends and family ask me, ‘Why can’t you just apply for citizenship?’ And it’s really not that simple,” said Sabbineni. “To me it feels like the kids are very lucky and get a green card through their parents, or they have to deport themselves when they are 21 because of the long backlogs. It’s a matter of luck, it’s up in the air. There a future hangs in the air. And right now, there is no linear path to citizenship for documented dreamers.”
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