UI student Pareen Mhatre reflects on telling her testimony to Congress, trip to D.C.

Mhatre, a University of Iowa biomedical engineering major, advocates for Improve the Dream, an organization defending the rights of documented Dreamers.


Kate Heston

University of Iowa student Pareen Mhatre poses for a portrait in Iowa City, IA on June 22, 2021. Mhatre is an immigration advocate for Improve the Dream.

Emily Delgado, News Reporter

Pareen Mhatre said she has been in constant fear of her path to American citizenship for the past five years. Mhatre, a University of Iowa student and Immigration Advocate for Improve the Dream, is legally considered an international student despite living in Iowa City for 20 years.

Improve the Dream, an organization led by young immigrants who grew up in the U.S. as child dependents of long-term visa holders, has been raising awareness for over 200,000 documented Dreamers who have been excluded from proposed solutions for Dreamers since 2017, the Improve the Dream website said.

Mhatre’s parents moved their family to the United States when she was four months old. She said she came to the U.S. as a dependent on her mother’s student visa.

In April, Mhatre was invited to virtually testify in front of the Subcommittee on Immigration of Congress with Improve the Dream to tell her story as a documented Dreamer.

When she was testifying, Mhatre said she felt that she was being heard and she was grateful to have had that opportunity.

Mhatre told U.S. lawmakers in her testimony to the House Judiciary Committee that for the last nine months, she has been awaiting approval for the change of her immigration status to F1 student.

Mhatre, who also turned 21 two weeks ago before testifying, said she no longer has dependent status and “aged out of the system.”

“Unless my application is approved, I am not allowed to enroll in classes in future semesters,” Mhatre said.

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She said she felt empowered to share her story with Congress because growing up, she didn’t know about other people in her situation.

In her recent trip to the District of Columbia with Improve the Dream, Mhatre met with Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa.

Miller-Meeks wrote in a statement to *The Daily Iowan* that when she met with Mhatre, they spoke about how the U.S. needs young people like her who grow up in the United States, attend American schools, and graduate from American universities.

“I believe we must ensure that first and foremost our immigration system protects those who come here legally and supports them as they work to contribute to and improve our country,” Miller-Meeks wrote to the DI.

Mhatre said she felt fortunate to have her representative listen to her story and ideas for legislative change.

“The fact that she thinks that people like me are important for our city, really meant a lot,” she said.

Suresh Raghavan, a UI biomedical engineering professor and educational mentor of Mhatre, said he is proud of her for testifying while having undergone some struggles because of her immigration situation.

“Certainly, she’s a role model for other students who are coming from immigrant families but, I think she’s a role model example for all her peers,” Raghavan said.

The UI and Iowa City have been home for Mhatre for more than a decade. Like Mhatre, she said both of her parents pursued their education at UI.

“I am so grateful for all of the support that I’ve gotten from my friends, my professors, my family…my support system is something that I don’t take for granted,” Mhatre said.