Last month, the White House announced it would gradually sunset an Obama-era initiative known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which grants work authorization and deportation relief in two-year increments for certain undocumented applicants who pass background checks and pay a fee.
In its rescission announcement, the Trump administration made clear that anyone whose DACA expired before March 5, 2018 must submit their renewal applications prior to the October 5 deadline for one last two-year deferment. President Donald Trump said he would like to see a congressional solution to so-called DREAMers before next March.
According to internal data, only about 72 percent of the 154,234 DACA beneficiaries whose benefits expire before next March have submitted their applications as of October 4. The USCIS agency has yet to receive anything from 42,669 current DACA recipients.
The data also reveals a troubling trend in places hard hit by the recent spate of hurricanes. In Texas, 2,682 people in Hurricane Harvey-affected areas, or 28 percent of DACA recipients in the area, did not submit their applications in time. In Florida, 2,052 people in Hurricane Irma-affected areas, or 35 percent of recipients, did not submit their applications in time. In Puerto Rico, where Hurricane Maria left a widespread trail of destruction, 15 out of 28 total DACA beneficiaries did not renew in time. And in the U.S. Virgin Islands also hit by Hurricane Maria, one person out of a total of nine DACA recipients did not renew in time.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has clarified that the October 5 deadline refers to applications received by the agency, not simply applications received by the postmarked date, narrowing the 30-day window set by the White House.
Immigrant advocates have repeatedly balked over the short deadline, saying that individuals displaced by hurricanes should get extensions. The White House has provided no indication it would extend the deadline, but the USCIS agency issued a statement saying it would allow exceptions on a case-by-case basis.
The advocacy group Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), the largest immigrant rights organization in California, said this week that the October 5 deadline is “unrealistic and punishing.”
“Overnight, thousands upon thousands of young immigrants who trusted our government and dared come out of the shadows to apply for DACA protections will be forcibly, cruelly, and inhumanely flung back to the shadows,” Angelica Salas, CHIRLA executive director said Thursday in a statement. “The question for us and for Congress now is what’s next?”
“We are very concerned that because DACA recipients were not individually notified of their eligibility for renewal, tens of thousands of DACA recipients could lose their work authorization and DACA status protections,” the Congressional Hispanic Caucus wrote in a recent letter sent to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke.
“We have 220,000 DACA kids,” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) said in a recent interview with KQED California Politics Government Editor Scott Shafer. “I see these kids when they come up to me, when they visit with me in the office, I see them on the streets, I see them when I’m home. And they always, after speaking for just a short amount of time, start to just cry – these are kids who were brought here before they could walk or talk, right? This is the only home they’ve known. And they are terrified, because this administration has vilified this population and shown anything but compassion.”
As part of an effort to push for a permanent fix through Congress, a bipartisan group of senators led by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) have tried to push through the DREAM Act of 2017, which would allow so-called DREAMers to earn their citizenship provided they pass various background checks, hold certain qualifications, and have no history of serious crimes. On Thursday, Politico revealed Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) is set to introduce the Border Security and Deferred Action Recipient Relief Act, which would provide conditional resident status to DACA recipients for ten years before they can eventually apply for citizenship.