31% Of Those With DACA Have Not Renewed On Last Day To File

Image courtesy of McGeorge School of Law (CC License)

Today is the last day to overnight mail renewals for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and nearly a third of those eligible to renew still have not done so according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Out of 154,000 immigrants eligible to renew, 106,000 have applied for renewal, leaving 31 percent who have not yet filed, the Washington Post reported.

While several thousand additional renewals are likely to be received by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today and tomorrow, a substantial number of those previously protected by DACA will begin losing their ability to work legally in the United States beginning on Friday.

An estimated 1,300 young immigrants will lose DACA status every week from now until March as their work permits expire.

As deplorable as the Trump administration’s ending of DACA was, the rushed one-month DACA renewal period was an additional horror. There is no other immigration program that I can remember with a drop-dead, one-month deadline. Even Temporary Protected Status (TPS) has a two-month renewal period.

Renewal periods are never only 30 days because it takes time to notify the impacted immigrants. They need more time to gather resources and make appointments with legal service providers, and the legal service groups need time to complete the applications, have them reviewed, and mail them.

Our ability to even organize outreach events was limited by the short time for renewals. Church and college groups rushed to put on workshops and information sessions, but the lack of any lead time meant that they were either rushed and poorly attended or very late in the process. For example, I participated in one session at a college just yesterday afternoon.

The way DHS is “counting” whether an application is filed on time is also a problem. Typically, when there is a time-limited renewal period, the Department of Homeland Security uses the postmark to determine if the applicant met the deadline.

In this emergency renewal period, when time is of the essence, DHS says that it will not use the postmark as proof that the application was filed on time. Instead, it says that the application must be received by the DHS by October 5, not mailed by October 5. This cuts one day off the brief renewal period and means that applications submitted this week have to be sent by overnight mail to ensure delivery in time.

A third problem with the renewal period was that someone watching Attorney General Jeff Sessions announce the end of DACA would not even be aware of it. Sessions never mentioned it in his September 5 speech, nor did the Acting Homeland Security Secretary. It was buried in FAQs from DHS. Sure, I spotted it and started talking about it right away, but many legal service groups did not learn of the deadline until several precious days had already passed.

When I spoke to reporters about it a few days later, many told me that they were completely unaware of the deadline. They had assumed that those with DACA could renew until March.

Finally, I want to talk about an unknown story. Some young people who had DACA have already lost their eligibility. The renewal period only covers those DACA recipients whose status expires between September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018. Anyone whose permit expired before September 5 and who did not renew is now permanently cut-off from the program. In the past, late renewals had been accepted, but not anymore.

I applaud the work that the legal service groups on Long Island and the Hofstra Law School Clinics did in serving the emergency needs of those with DACA. Because the renewal period was so short, none of us had time to fundraise to pay for services. I know CARECEN spent thousands of unbudgeted dollars on DACA renewals, and I am sure Make the Road and Catholic Charities did as well. We worked hard, and we worked smart, but we also worked under the gun and with too few resources.

President Trump had done everything he could to make this a painful catastrophe for Dreamers.

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