Iowa man to self-deport after running out of visa options

Published: Jun. 1, 2022 at 10:24 PM CDT
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NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa (KCRG) - Laurens Van Beek didn’t have a choice about moving from the Netherlands to the U.S.—he was only a kid.

“I was seven when we moved to the United States, and I was eight when I moved to Iowa and I’ve been here ever since. I went to Mark Twain Elementary, to South East Junior High, to Iowa City High, and then to the University of Iowa for my degree and stuck around to work for IDT here in Coralville.”

Van Beek’s parents moved here legally. Van Beek was legal then, too, as a dependent on another’s visa. However, after the age of 21, he was no longer able to be on a parent’s visa. He aged out of legal status after childhood in the U.S.

Van Beek is now 25. He has used a series of temporary visa options to remain in the country after turning 21. “I came here initially under my parents’ visa through the J visa, then to an F1, and then a dependent of my dad’s F1, and then he switched to the E2 visa to start his business...When I went to the University of Iowa for my Bachelor’s, I switched to an F1 status myself.” Van Beek added at the end of that visa, he applied for another status, and then extended it.

He’s now out of options. “July 5 is my flight out of the country.”

“It breaks my heart. It gives me a big lump in my throat,” said Harold Van Beek, Laurens’ father. “It’s only five weeks from now that he will be gone for I don’t know how long.”

Van Beek expressed frustration with the system that’s dictated his life, as well as his son’s. “It doesn’t matter which corner or turn we take, we will always be considered like second-rank people...I understand that Americans don’t understand anything about immigration because they don’t have to deal with it.”

Wednesday, Harold Van Beek met with Senator Chuck Grassley to advocate for the CHILDREN Act, which would protect so-called “Documented Dreamers” from aging out of the system when they turn 21. Dip Patel, founder of Improve the Dream, joined. “Most people don’t realize that it’s even possible for an immigrant child to be brought here to the country with legal status, grow up here with legal status, be educated here, and then forced to leave the only country you’ve known.”

Without a law, though, Laurens Van Beek is bound for a new home in Belgium. “I’m trying to look at the bright side of things, you know, look at having to move over there as an adventure, but it’s also leaving where I grew up,” said Van Beek.

Van Beek believes he will be able to come back to the U.S by getting a visa through his work, but he expects that process to take at least a year. He also knows there is no guarantee. “What am I going to do if it doesn’t work out? Am I going to find another job there or am I going to stay there?” He added, “I grew up here and... I am arguably more American that Dutch at this point in my life.”

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