TAMPA, Fla. — Millions of people around the world dream of experiencing the “American dream.”
Many immigrants have settled in Florida and have become quite successful.
“I’ve done every single thing in the immigration process myself, and that’s why I love practicing immigration law,” said Ahmad Yakzan, an immigration lawyer and owner of the American Dream Law Office in Tampa.
Yakzan truly is an example of living the American dream. He was born in Lebanon and immigrated to the United States when he was just 18 years old in search of a better life and opportunities. He even earned four degrees from Stetson University.
He has been in the United States for 24 years and has had several different visas.
“From the student visa to getting my H-1B, to getting my green card,” said Yakzan.
Last year, he officially became an American citizen, and now he’s giving back by helping other people navigate the system.
“Because I’ve lived the American dream, and I like helping people with their American dream,” said Yakzan.
Though we love hearing success stories like Yakzan’s, our immigration process is difficult, and some even say it’s broken.
“I’ve been here since I was three months old, but I’m still not really considered a citizen,” said Chandana Karumanchi.
Karumanchi is an 18-year-old student at the University of Florida with hopes of pursuing a career in medicine. She was brought here from India as a baby when her father obtained an H-1B visa to work in I.T.
He applied for a green card to allow his family to gain permanent residency. He has been waiting for about 10 years, and he’s just one of the thousands of immigrants on the waiting list.
“We’ve kind of just been stuck in that backlog throughout the entire time,” said Karumanchi.
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“With our immigration system, no matter what parts of the system we fix, there are going to be people that fall through the cracks,” said Dip Patel, founder of the organization Improve the Dream.
Improve the Dream advocates for so-called document dreamers, like Karumanchi, who were brought here legally as children under a parent’s visa, but need to find a legal way to stay in the U.S. after they turn 21.
Patel’s organization is pushing for a bill in Congress called America’s Children Act. If passed, the law would protect children of long-term visa holders and provide a pathway to citizenship.
“It’s really important to have a mechanism in place where it, especially, protects children who are raised and educated here,” said Patel.
“Literally, individuals are dying in this green card backlog,” said Robert Bouchard, who runs
He said the green card backlog can be blamed on the policy that provides every country 7% of the available green cards. Critics say the system is unfair because many more people are applying for green cards from countries like China, India and Mexico than, say, Denmark or Spain.
“Now you’re creating a backlog, and that backlog continues to grow. I’ve seen 1.2 million seems to be the current calculation,” said Bouchard.
The U.S. House Judiciary Committee recently approved the Eagle Act. The law would remove that 7% per-country cap for employment-based green cards and increase family-sponsored green cards from 7% to 15%.
“What this bill is doing is it increases the cap for each country. So, it will take care of that backlog, specifically for India and China because all of the other countries are current at this time,” said Indera DeMine, an immigration lawyer at DeMine Immigration Law Firm.
“You can see why someone would go down the route of coming in unlawfully or illegally, right. So, I think in taking care of this backlog, you might deter unlawful entries or illegal immigration in the United States because there are so many thousands of folks that are stuck in this wait period right now,” said DeMine.
Though that Eagle Act is welcomed news to the thousands of people stuck in the system, that bill still has a way to go. First, it has to successfully be voted on and passed by the House before heading to the politically divided Senate.
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