Dip Patel was actually born in India but moved to Canada with his parents when he was only four years old. There, his parents became Canadian citizens and made the decision to travel to the United States to open a business with E-2 visas.
Because Patel grew up in the United States his entire life, he assumed he was the same as other American citizens. Sadly, his struggles with getting a driver’s license and applying to universities led him to realize that he was on a different boat with US immigration laws.
This then led him to found Improve the dream that educates Documented Dreamers – children who grew up in the United States as dependent children of long-term visa holders who in the face of self-eviction after getting old. Below we talk to Patel about his journey in the United States and his advocacy work to change US immigration laws:
Tell us how your trip to the United States began.
I was born in India and when I was four my parents moved to Canada. A few years later, my parents became Canadian citizens.
Our trip began in southern Illinois when I was nine years old. Under the E-2 visa, decided to start a rural business in Illinois. This visa is available to immigrants from around 70 different countries, but there is no path to citizenship as children get older.
âThere just hasn’t been enough attention to this particular flaw in the immigration system. We have finally come to a point where people recognize that this is a problem that really needs to be addressed. “
– Soak Patel (@TheDipPatel) October 6, 2021
Having attended elementary school, middle school, and high school, I felt like any other American kid – I didn’t see myself as any different. Even though we had to renew our status every few years, I didn’t really run into any obstacles until I had to get a driver’s license or start applying for colleges.
It was then that I realized that I might not be able to stay after I graduated. From there, I had to start planning and thinking about how the decisions would affect my life in the future. It’s frustrating not being able to benefit from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Explain to us your educational background in the United States and what you are doing now with your career trajectory.
So I have a doctorate in pharmacy and I graduated two years ago. I am now working as a full time pharmacist. In my spare time, I devote myself entirely to Improve The Dream and changing US immigration laws for Documented Dreamers.
Was it difficult to find a job after graduating?
Fortunately, I was able to find one quite quickly as I was also very involved in school. It certainly helped. What was difficult was that my OPT ended after a year, but since my parents arrived in Canada I qualified for TN status which gave me a temporary chance to to stay. Again, not permanent but it was a light at the end of the tunnel.
Do you think it would have made a difference if you had studied at a local institution in Canada?
Personally, the United States is my home. My family is here, my friends are here and most of my relatives are here. Any child who grows up in the United States should have the right to stay.
Most people assume that these rights exist because they aren’t talked about enough in conversations. What is good is that now these discussions are finally taking place.
Pareen illustrates what it means to be a Documented Dreamer and this is one of the main reasons we have been able to raise awareness in our community. https://t.co/zV9eSP5vC5
– Soak Patel (@TheDipPatel) December 14, 2021
Did that then inspire you to found Improve The Dream?
I decided to go to pharmacy school – a six-year program straight out of high school and since it was a private program, all participants paid the same tuition. It made my decision to study there easier to make despite being an American immigrant.
While in pharmacy school, I started being an activist around the time the Trump administration arrived. There were discussions about canceling the DACA program and I knew there would be pressure in Congress for a solution for the Dreamers.
I naively contacted a few Congressional and Senate offices and started sharing my story. There was no one at the national level talking about children who were visa addicted and getting older.
I didn’t know much about it but I guess I did. Slowly I realized that there were people who wanted to help but at the same time these personal conversations didn’t lead to much change.
At Improve The Dream, we’ve been made aware and have a champion in Congress – Deborah Ross, who helped us bring forward the America’s Children Act. It was never my intention to create this huge community of Dreamers, it just happened.
I think the greatest thing was seeing the support we were able to get. Senator Alex Padilla has also been a champion and recently we worked with Congressman Ross and Senator Padilla to help 51 members of Congress write a letter to the administration for dreamers to be included in the DACA – a huge thing.
What are the big hurdles Dreamers face with U.S. immigration laws?
The DACA was created by the Obama administration to help ensure protection against deportation and authorization to work. In the application guidelines taken from this memorandum, the administration stated that to be eligible you had to be present illegally on the date they announced it.
This means that the children, who otherwise meet all the criteria but are in one of these dependent statuses, are in limbo. Technically, they are legal, but there is still no clear path for them – there are currently 200,000 Dreamers.
The progress we have made has been on the side of legislation so that children under Dreamers can get long-term visas. But, DACA isn’t the best solution, it’s just temporary protection, so there’s a lot more work to be done.
âThe only thing I have wondered throughout my life is what did I do wrong to have so much downside compared to all of my peers.
– Improve the dream (@ImproveTheDream) December 8, 2021
What other plans do you have on the map with US immigration and Improve The Dream?
I hope educate the general public and we are also working at the state level to help dreamers get tuition. For example, the California Dream Act requires applicants to be undocumented, but does not include children on long-term visas.
Likewise, many other states then used California law as a guide to make their own. With awareness, it is possible to change them. Above all, this growing community with Improve The Dream helps people stay connected and advocate together.
It also helps people navigate the system together until the change occurs.
Where can people find more information about Improve The Dream and what you do?
We have monthly regional calls and occasional national calls through our Slack community of Documented Dreamers. So if anyone wants to learn more about American Immigration for Dreamers, they should go to our website and click on the “Join” button on the home page. After a quick survey, they get a link to join the site community.