One day last week, I arrived at my office to see a young woman sitting across from one of CARECEN’s lawyers, Elise Damas. The woman had the protection of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and had filed on her own to renew her status long before the Trump administration’s arbitrarily imposed October 5 deadline.
She had paid the U.S. Postal Service to track her application, and it showed that she had mailed it with plenty of time to spare. In spite of having proof of filing on time, her application had been returned to her as a “late filing” that missed the deadline.
Elise then wondered if this was the only such case, and she got in touch with Camille Mackler at the New York Immigration Coalition who told her that the coalition was getting a lot of reports of similar denials of DACA renewals for being “late filings.”
On Friday, the New York Times published an article documenting the failure by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to accept thousands of similar renewals.
In one case, the New York City Legal Aid Society sent in a renewal on September 14. It arrived at the post office’s mail sorting facility in Chicago on September 16, on its way to DHS’s Chicago address for DACA renewals. Then, the package seemed to disappear for two weeks, only to be delivered on October 6, a day late for renewals. This turned out to be one of many such disappearing applications.
Even applications sent by DACA recipients living in Chicago took a mysteriously long time to get to DHS in the same city. One application mailed on September 13 from Chicago did not get to DHS in Chicago until three weeks later, after the deadline.
Last Thursday, the post office admitted that it was at fault for the delays, saying that there was an “unintentional temporary mail processing delay in the Chicago area.”
Steve Blando, the spokesman for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) of the DHS, said in a statement that the “late” DACA renewals would not be processed, even though there was no fault on the part of the young people who filed the renewals.
Blando added, “U.S.C.I.S. is not responsible for the mail service an individual chooses, or for delays on the part of mail service providers.”
In a recent deposition, USCIS reported that 4,000 DACA renewals had been rejected for being late.
I have worked on many other immigration programs requiring renewal by a deadline, and in all those programs, a case was considered filed “on time” as long as it had a postmark indicating that it had been mailed by the cut-off date. The Trump administration’s latest cruelty against young immigrants should not be allowed to stand.