With Last Day Looming, Turnout For DACA Renewal Help Below Expectations

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With the deadline for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) renewals fast approaching, immigrant legal services organizations around New York State report surprisingly low turnout at clinics to help people renew.

A major push by more than 40 legal service agencies statewide to offer free help with applying for DACA has seen clinics and walk-in services at less than half of capacity.

The groups are hoping to get the word out on Monday, Sept. 25 with a statewide “Day of Action,” where 65 locations will offer free DACA renewal services.

While DACA will not end until March 5, 2018, there is only a short time left for those with DACA who need to renew their status. For anyone with DACA whose status expires between Sept. 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018, DACA renewals must be received by Oct. 5, 2017. This means that they must be mailed as soon as possible. Applicants mailing after September 26 are urged to send their renewals by Priority Overnight Mail so that they arrive at Homeland Security before the October 5 deadline. Do not send by Federal Express, only by the United States Postal Service.

At this time, the Department of Homeland Security is issuing work permits valid for two years.

On Long Island, The Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) will offer Day of Action renewal help for free from 9 a.m. in Hempstead and 10 a.m. in Brentwood at both of our offices. A complete list of Day of Action services statewide is available here at the New York Immigration Coalition’s website. 

In my conversations with service providers and those protected by DACA, a few factors seem to explain the low numbers of renewals.

First, many DACA recipients simply don’t know about the renewal deadline. The media has repeatedly emphasized March 5 as the DACA termination date, and have barely mentioned the renewal cut-off of Oct. 5, 2017. It was not even mentioned by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in his Sept. 5 announcement of the end of the program.

Second, among those who know of the deadline, there is a certain fatalism about spending money to apply for a work authorization under a soon-to-be defunct program. Sure, DACA may end in March, 2018, but as far as we know the work permits issued now will be good for another two years, well into 2019 or even 2020.

The third factor was thrown into the mix last week when a “deal” on DACA was supposedly reached by President Donald Trump and the Democratic leaders in Congress to pass legislation for Dreamers.

Some DACA recipients have told me that they don’t want to apply for renewal until they see how the “deal” turns out. The problem, of course, is that we will not know if the “deal” is real until after Oct. 5, when it will be too late to renew.

Even if a “deal” is struck and the legislation is passed, it could take a year or more for work authorizations to be issued. During that time, people who had DACA, but did not renew, will be left without work authorization and will likely lose their jobs.

The fourth reason given for low renewal rates is a fear that doing so will help Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrest the applicant and his or her family. What this ignores is that the applicant does not give information on his or her parents or other family members on the DACA application.

Before someone decides not to apply for DACA, they need to get the facts.

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.

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